Thursday, November 1, 2007

New Link

Sorry to get on my "high horse" yet again----but I still need to harp on and on about the NAIS issue. If you still don't understand it and wonder why you should bother calling your representatives to tell them NO----here is an article that will give you yet another side to the story. It come from the Rural Vermont site which has some other interesting articles on site too. Check it out if you have time.

Letter to the Editor: Disease Response Methods are Overkill

October 18, 2007
Mike Eastman
Addison, Vermont

To the Editor:

I recently attended a meeting in Sheldon, Vermont, called “Planning to Survive an Agricultural Bio-Disaster.” It featured Dr. Steve van Wie, a retired veterinarian who had been sent to England during the 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, to help kill livestock.

We learned that if one infected animal is found in a herd, then all cows, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas and pigs within a 6.2 mile radius (the “Hot Zone”) are automatically killed, even if they are healthy and disease-free. We were shown a film taken while Dr. van Wie was over there, documenting the horrors of this response to the disease: livestock were killed and left dead, in barns or in outside barnyards, for “two or three weeks” until disposal crews could reach them. Barns and outbuildings were burned to the ground, to kill the virus. Six and a half million animals were killed, and over 80 farmers committed suicide.

We were told that there was a high risk of terrorists bringing FMD in, and that they’ve tried it this past winter. He said it was easy to do.

But what really made me angry, was the way farmers were treated afterward. They were paid a fraction of the value of their destroyed livestock, little or nothing for their burned buildings, and no compensation at all for lost income (it takes a year before a farm is allowed back in production, if it is able to recover at all).

After the meeting, I asked the speaker, “Shouldn’t you be giving this presentation to Congress, so that if it happens to us, we can be given the support we need?” He replied, “I like to stay out of politics, and anyway, it would cost our taxpayers too much.”

Well, this got me thinking. FMD is not a disease problem as much as it is a political problem. It seems to me that the “cure” is much more emotionally and economically devastating than the disease itself. Interestingly, Dr. van Wie said that during the 2001 outbreak in England, deer were not considered to be a problem because they just went into the woods, recovered on their own and apparently pose no risk of re-infection.

I can’t believe that, in the year 2007, we are still using such a Dark Ages approach to controlling a disease that poses absolutely zero risk to human health. In fact, it is only our “response” to FMD that makes terrorists want to bring it here in the first place. Hysteria, suicide, entire counties under lock-down and quarantine, flames and bullets flying everywhere: what else could a terrorist ask for? It is interesting that we have plenty of taxpayer dollars to fund the over-reactive, military style response our government says we need to control FMD, just none for the farmers.

According to agricultural experts, a system of national animal identification is the answer. This involves putting computer chips in all farm animals at birth, and entering them into a national database so their movements and location can be instantly tracked. That way, when it comes time to depopulate a hot zone, the pet llama or backyard beef won’t be overlooked, even as infected deer are allowed to roam free.

Aside from this absurdity, national animal ID will not stop repeated bioterrorist attacks on our agriculture or the illegal imports that might make it through our borders (pigs can get FMD from eating uncooked, infected meat).

I think Dr. Van Wie did an excellent job educating us to the horrors FMD would present to us as things now stand. Dr. Julie Smith of UVM, who was also speaking, outlined strategies she is working on to make Vermont biosecure, in the event FMD ever does reach the U.S. I thought this was a great first step, but until the government is required to fully compensate all farmers and livestock owners for the losses incurred to them by the “shock and awe” method of control we use now, a sane and nondestructive approach will never be found.


Mike Eastman

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