random thoughts to oil the mind


Bureaucrats Legislate for the Fun of It


Reliable old DEFRA have managed to do it again. As related in a previous post, anyone hoping to export an animal to Russia will find that the government has failed to maintain a recognised agreement with their Russian opposites (Министерство сельского хозяйства), and as a result all import agreements need to be made on an individual basis. So when Korshki Bengals arranged for an import permit to Russia, it came as some surprise that it was DEFRA which threw a cog in the works. After all, they didn’t even have an agreement with the Russians in the first place, and a glance at their official documentation for the export of animals to the country illustrates a refined degree of incompetence, with seemingly no ability to reproduce Cyrillic script, nor any understanding that cats are rarely brought down with African swine fever.

Nevertheless, DEFRA rules for DEFRA’s rules. With the cat vaccinated, microchipped, import permits signed, and a flight arranged with Lutfhansa, the only thing missing was a final veterinarian’s signature on the health certificate, which DEFRA had demanded could not be signed any earlier than 10 days before flying. The reasons behind this were only revealed on the day. The only unusual request from the Russian government as far as cats are concerned, was that the animal was foot and mouth free. Despite the fact that the animal was being exported from the UK, DEFRA regardless felt it was necessary that the animal be vaccinated against rabies. This vaccine, however, prevents the animal from flying within 14 days – so why then was the information only passed on within 10 days of flying? The vet, of course, didn’t know. The local DEFRA officer, naturally, didn’t know. In fact DEFRA’s office itself in London, didn’t know. It had to be followed up to DEFRA’s office in Lincoln, now responsible for all exports of cats (amongst other things) for a vociferous and rather peripatetic answer. In fact, to call it an answer seems too strong a word, for it was more of a comment. What the argument essentially boiled down to was that the vaccinations the cat requires can only be revealed within such a timeframe that the legislation will not change between the time the animal is signed for and the time it leaves the country.

Yet where is the logic for this argument? Not only is rabies one of the older and more documented diseases, not only are the rules regarding rabies unlikely to change in such short notice in either the UK or the EU, but the responsibility lies with the Russian department on how it deals with animals coming into the country, something DEFRA would do well to remember given their lack of any formal agreement with the country.

DEFRA Defers to Popular Policing

The recent furor over Avian Flu has no doubt led many of us to believe that a dangerous worldwide pandemic looms on the horizon. There is little doubt in the scientific community that should the H5N1 strain of the virus mutate into a form easily communicable between humans, the virus will show much greater potency than current pathogenic influenza viruses, owing to the lack of immunity within the population of this new ‘avian’ form.

Yet just what can governments and scientific bodies do to allay fears and combat the disease? In the latter regard, there is precious little which can be done beyond monitoring the condition in the bird populations. So why then is the disease so readily in the popular news? Are we seeing the same variety of overhyped scare-mongering that accompanied the BSE/vCJD crisis of the previous decade? In 2000, the BBC used the headline CJD deaths ‘quadrupled since 1995’ to illustrate a meagre rise in the real term numbers of cases (unfortunately the page can no longer be found on the BBC website, the link uses Google’s cache). Of course, given the way that particular disease manifested itself there was every chance that should an epidemic result, the clock would already be ticking for a vast section of the population.

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