In the post below, To Test or not to Test, we explained why we felt that pre movement testing of cattle as a disease management aid was weak, that this site favoured a post movement test of breeding cattle (if anything) but that while a wildlife reservoir of bTb remained to re infect, and reinfect and reinfect... nothing would work at all. We also gave examples of both pre and post movement testing regimes, cohort slaughter of cattle and licensed movements, which others had diligently applied at great cost - but to absolutely no benefit whatsoever.
But now the whole pre movement testing strategy and the group who were tasked with its implementation has been labelled a 'total sham', by - one of its members.
Ben Messer-Bennetts, an auctioneer from Truro, Cornwall had been a member of the 9 strong 'stakeholder' group but refused to endorse its report, delivered to the Minister for Conservation and Fisheries this week. His criticisms include:
* The Chairman's reluctance to allow open discussion or debate in the meetings, which appeared to be heavily swayed by the presence of two Defra 'observers'.
* No detailed minutes of meetings, on which the presence of Defra's people seemed to have a "disproportionate effect".
* The report's ommission of any member's dissenting views to its conclusions or calculations.
* The cost/benefit calculations done by Defra's Economics Department and the report admits much of the RIA (Regulatory Impact Assessments) 'guesswork' (new calculators then? You really couldn't make this up could you?)
* No robust independent scrutiny of the group's recommendations, or input from those most affected by the pre-movemnt testing proposals.
Mr. Messer-Bennett points out that:
The proposal it (the group)arrived at, was effectively what the Department had wanted from the very beginning. I believe that farmers have been let down very badly. Defra wanted a lot of 'Yes men' to sit and rubber stamp its proposal, and with one exception - it got them".In his own report forwarded to the Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Debbie Reynolds, Mr. Messer-Bennett outlined his unease with the report which in fact mirrors our own criticism.
He also emphasises his anger at Defra's denial of the group's access to RTA Tb- infected badger casualty figures which when overlaid onto cattle bTb incidence areas show a 'striking correlation'. The request for these figures "was firmly turned down", he said.
It will be impossible to contain bTb in cattle, if we do not contain it in the wildlife. This is the biggest issue facing farming and to lumber the industry with the proposal this group has produced, would be nothing short of disaster.Off topic slightly, there were many 'conspiracy' theories rampant when FMD was allowed to become 'carnage by computer', and as we've pointed out many millions pf animals were 'modelled' to death. Personally I don't buy it.
But... when a crisis erupts and no pre-emptive measures are taken...? When the mistakes of the past are ignored...? This sort of cock-up can only continue and grow, when good men sit on their hands and say - nothing.
So to Mr. Messer-Bennett, this site says - thank you.