CENTRAL VETERINARY SOCIETY
Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on 10th October 2002 at Belgravia House, London.
Present: the President Prof. A. R. Michell and 27 Fellows and guests.
Apologies for absence had been received from 18 Fellows.
Those present stood in silence in the memory of Mr. Oliver Graham Jones and Mr. Pat Turner.
Minutes of the meeting held on 16th May 2002 had been circulated and were approved.
Matters arising: none.
Any Other Business: The President reported that Mr. James Baird, Chief Executive of the BVA, had retired before the Annual General Meeting on 5th October. Some breathing space was now available for necessary reorganisation to be put in place. Prof. J. Bleby noted that much of the credit for lancing what had become a festering sore was due to the Central, and the President requested that thanks to both Prof. Bleby and Mr. G. Tribe for their contributions in this matter should be recorded.
Mr. G. Tribe requested permission to ask those present whether any of them had ever been vaccinated against anthrax. The answer was in the negative. Mr. Tribe observed that the R.A.F. were proposing to vaccinate personnel against this disease, and were countering safety concerns by assuring their staff that the vaccine was perfectly safe because "all vets are given it".
The President then welcomed the two speakers who were present, Mr. Angus Taylor and Dr. Sheila Crispin, and reported that although the third speaker, Mr. Roger Windsor, had been unavoidably called away to Laos, he had provided a copy of his address for the President to read to the meeting.
Mr. Taylor recounted his experiences in the 1967-68 FMD outbreak, in which he was heavily involved, and contrasted these with what he knew about the 2001 outbreak. His primary concerns were that implementation of the 1994 Lebrecht Report had left the State Veterinary Service impossibly short of manpower, that the recommendations of the 1969 Northumberland Report were ignored in 2001, and that there was a failure of central management to trust the judgement of veterinary surgeons on the spot.
Mr. Windsor's paper (entitled "Veterinary Medicine or Alchemy?") also heavily criticised the Lebrecht Report, the fact that that inexperienced managers were unable to take sensible decisions, and the apparent relinquishing of strategic control to non-veterinary personnel (the Chief Scientist and his associates). He recounted a number of very distressing incidents from his experiences in Dumfries in 2001.
Dr. Crispin spent the 2001 outbreak in Newcastle, where she helped set up the control centre. She drew attention to the well-characterised nature of the virus, and pointed out that the epidemiology of the virus in sheep had not been properly appreciated, with the danger from this species being seriously overestimated. Misdiagnosis inflated the apparent size of the epizootic, and young and inexperienced vets found it difficult to defy orders from headquarters even when both animal and human welfare were badly compromised. She was heavily critical of the 'mathematical model' which was based on huge numbers of assumptions, and which had led to this epidemic being unprecedented, not in scale, but in degree of slaughter.
The meeting concluded with an informative discussion, which included reports from several Fellows of their own 2001 experiences. The President concluded by suggesting that the profession should pursue the many unanswered questions through the House of Commons Select Committee.
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