• Trump and Syria & Animal Virus

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    21 April 2017

    Trump and Syria

    Last week the man who said during the US presidential campaign that the US should pull back from foreign conflicts launched the most destructive barrage of American cruise missiles since the first day of the last Iraq war. Around 60 Tomahawks each with a 1,000 pound payload were slammed into Shayrat airfield that had been used by the Assad regime for the delivery of a chemical attack on Syrian citizens. The evidence, including via autopsies in Turkey of some of those who perished is that the deadly nerve agent Sarin was used. An agonizing death for around 70 people many of them little children. Syria and her Russian sponsors both pledged not to use chemical weapons – which are banned under international law - but went ahead regardless. Previously, President Obama side-stepped taking firm action against Assad – not least because of the, in my view, disastrous decision of our parliament in 2013 not to support American action the last time that he used chemical weapons (resulting in 1,400 deaths). Whilst I remain concerned about several aspects of the Trump presidency, on this I back him. Russia and Assad need to know that actions have consequences and that excessive barbarity will not go unchallenged.

    Animal Virus
    There are many challenges facing our local farmers. Bovine TB is one of the greatest but there is another disease that presents a serious problem to cows and sheep alike - Schmallenberg. This virus was first detected on mainland Europe in 2011 and acquired its name from being discovered in a blood sample obtained from cows near Schmalenberg in Germany. Since then it has spread throughout Europe to Finland in the North, Spain in the South and Turkey in the East. Biting insects are the vector that spreads the virus with midges being the most effective. They have quickly spread it across every rural county in England and Wales. The virus initially produces short-lived yet acute symptoms in cattle including diarrhea and a reduction in milk yields. Yet as it spreads from cow to cow it develops into a threat of longer duration. The most serious danger is the effect of the virus during an animal’s pregnancy. In sheep foetal abnormalities can result in abortion or deformities (fixed joints, twisted necks, a dome skull) in newly born lambs. In 2012/13, the Government consulted as to whether the virus should be classified as a ‘notifiable disease’ – whereby there is a legal obligation to report it. However, it was determined that the impact of the virus at that time was low at a national level and that making it notifiable would be over burdensome on farmers. There is also an expectation that a vaccine will become available over the coming months which will be a great step forward. In the meantime, any farmers who suspect the disease may be present in their animals are strongly urged to consult their local vet to make sure that we keep a close track on this unwelcome scourge.