Letter to private eye (may 2001) by Andrew Byron

Thankyou for your article giving background information on prof Roy "sheep   killer " Anderson. A man who had previously been conspicuous by his absence from media criticism of the handling of the foot and mouth crisis.

It is hard to understand why the government and maff are still persisting in  their dogmatic implementation of the Anderson "inspired" contiguous cull policy, especially when it has been so comprehensively rubbished by some of the worlds leading experts on FMD. Including Dr Alex Donaldson and Dr Paul  Kitching, of IAH Pirbright Lab, and Prof Fred Brown of the USDA.

Donaldson has shown that the contiguous cull is unjustifiable with regard to disease control in his articles in the Vetinary Record of the 12th May.  Both Dr Donaldson and Fred brown have conducted experiments which demonstrate that aerosol spread from the O strain of virus is minimal under UK field conditions. In a worse case scenario it would take 100 sheep all showing symptoms symultainiously to cause infection by aerosol spread to a maximum distance of 200 metres.

Despite overwhelming evidence from these eminent men, maff and the govt. have chosen to adopt the 48 hour contigous cull policy advocated by Professor Roy Anderson of imperial college. A man who has no vetinary experience and no specialist knowledge of FMD.

Anderson was "parachuted " in to Tony Blairs FMD think tank when it became clear that MAFF were failing, and Blair was desperate to get Foot an Mouth out of the way by election time. It was apparent that, due to the extent of the outbreak, and the length of time FMD had remained undetected, the outbreak was going to have a long "tail". Anderson's radical proposals must have seemed like an attractive way of reducing the chance of embarassing future flare ups of the disease .

Ironically, an article by Woolhouse et al (including Donaldson) in Nature (May 17), states that the epidemic was already "under control" by the time Anderson's policy was implemented. Under control, by Anderson's own definition, meaning that every infected premises discovered gives rise to less than one further infected premises, so the disease is on a downward curve. I believe the govt. paniced, and instigated Anderson's policy without considering the logistic and environmental problems posed by such wide scale slaughter and disposal of livestock.

Tony Blair and Nick Brown did not reach their current positions by being stupid, as the evidence against the contiguous cull mounts up they must be aware that they have made a terrible mistake. It is not just the fact that the have slaughtered too many animals, a lot of the electorate probably don't care about this, it is the wider implications of the unnecessary and unjustified contiguous cull; the polution of drinking water with BSE prions, cancer causing dioxins from pires, the near bancrupcy of whole sections of the tourist industry, which are almost inconceivable. This has to rank as one of the bigest scandals in British political history. To make a U turn in policy so close to the election would be political suicide. Tantamount to admitting they were wrong all along, that they killed millions of healthy animals and wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers money for nothing.

Try putting as positive spin on that.  They can't. So they cynically continue with the needless destruction of the lifes work of decent hard working people, just to satisfy their own desire for a second term.

Although i am a farmer, i have never voted conservative (or new labour), I am not concerned with the politics of this, i simply feel that i must speak out against the kind of abject cynicism that allows millions of healthy animals to be slaughtered needlessly for the sake of short term political gain. In my opinion if Tony Blair isn't man enough to admit he was wrong, then he isn't fit to be prime minister. A simplistic view i know , but i am a simple son of the soil after all.

I think Blair is aware that this is a real problem, he may be able  to sweep it under the carpet as far as the election is concerned, but it may yet come back to haunt him. He knows that Roy  Anderson, a thoroughly unpleasant and arrogant man by all accounts, has dropped him in it, an 'insider ' tells me that during a briefing with anderson and cheif scientist david king, when anderson left the room blair said: "that man is a bastard and a wanker."

So much for Roy's knighthood then, unless of course Gordon Brown gives him one in recognition of his contribution to shafting Tony.

andrew Byron
Elms Farm,
>  Staffs

> andrew@elmsfarm.freeserve.co.uk