DURING a recent dinner party a couple of long-time friends asked why I ‘always blame’ the so-called Establishment for so many of our current problems.
“Surely, if the BBC report it as fact, we can believe the BBC,” one friend added.
That was the excuse I needed, and fuelled by a few glasses of wine I began to burble a list which started somewhere around the creation of Israel, took a detour to the murder of Princess Diana, the real terrorists behind the 9/11 atrocities and crudely ended with Margaret Thatcher’s deployment of nuclear weapons during the Falklands War.
Yes, I suppose I am a bit of conspiracy theorist… but only when that conspiracy has credibility, and that credibility is supported by cast iron facts.
As a journalist I have witnessed far too often the lies and dirty tricks that the Establishment will stoop to, to get their own way.
Murder, war and disease are the forerunners.
And as a journalist, I know the deadly propaganda that our mainstream media – including the BBC and Sky – will feed the population to give credence to those lies.
The distorted reporting surrounding the recent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia are a case in point… but that would be another detour!
So to answer a few questions I have decided to dig out and reload one of my published investigations.
This one dates from early 2001, soon after Foot and Mouth Disease devastated British farming.
THE British, Canadian, US and Mexican Governments were preparing for the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease FOUR months before it emerged on a Tyneside farm.
An investigation has discovered that all four countries were staging a co-ordinated Foot and Mouth simulation exercise in October 2000, despite the fact that Britain had not been struck by the disease for 34 years and the USA and Canada had not been affected since 1929.
And North timber merchants have confirmed that they were approached for urgent supplies to tackle the disease by Ministry of Agriculture officials as early as December.
Today scientists called for the Government to admit it knew that Foot and Mouth was present in the UK long before it was officially pinpointed at Bobby Waugh’s Heddon-on-the-Wall pig farm on 23rd February.
And Mr Waugh has called for a public apology from the Government after the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) consistently blamed his farm as “the likely source of the outbreak”.
An investigation has discovered that last October the United States and Mexico began preparing for “a simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease” in all three countries.
According to papers leaked from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the exercise – which took place between 6th and 9th November – was “for the purpose of emergency planning”.
It took place in Ontario, Alberta, Texas, USA, and Tamaulipas, Mexico.
The papers say: “This exercise is the first of its kind and provides all three countries with a unique opportunity to apply their emergency response plans in the event of a real disease outbreak.”
Yet neither Canada, the USA nor Mexico had been affected with Foot and Mouth Disease since 1929.
And the exercise – which is estimated to have cost over $1million – was the first US “Foreign Animal Disease Response Simulation” of any kind since 1993. At the same time the UK Government was preparing its own “contingency plans” for a Foot and Mouth outbreak.
Yet the last Foot and Mouth outbreak was in 1967.
We discovered that MAFF officials began telephoning timber merchants as early as December asking if they could supply wood for pyres, should Foot and Mouth strike.
Mike Littlehales, who ran a timber yard in Staffordshire said he received a phone call “out of the blue”.
He said: “I got this call from a lady who said ‘This is the Ministry of Agriculture. Would you be interested in supplying timber in case of foot-and-mouth?’ because she wanted to update her records.
“It surprised me, and I thought it was doubly strange when three weeks later the Government tell us we have an outbreak of the disease.”
Mr Littlehales said the last time his timber business had received a similar call was during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 1967.
Fran Talbot, a timber merchant at Eccleshall, said she was approached in first week of February and asked about the availability of railway sleepers in the event of a FMD outbreak.
“The woman said ‘are you still in a position to supply timber for burning animals in case of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth’.
“It was a very odd thing to happen just three weeks before an outbreak.”
Mrs Talbot’s firm had supplied sleepers during the 1967 outbreak, but had not heard from MAFF since.
Tommy Norman, who runs a timber yard at Longtown, Cumbria – the centre of scores of cases of Foot and Mouth Disease – confirmed he had received a similar call from MAFF in January.
“It’s difficult for me to say any more,” he added. “I have provided masses of wood for MAFF pyres, but they still owe me a large amount of money.”
Top US scientist Dr Patricia Doyle, who has led a stateside campaign to discover the truth about the UK Foot and Mouth outbreak, said: “I am convinced that MAFF knew about the virus was on the loose long before this February.
“And the US Government was protecting its back because they weren’t sure how far the virus had leaked.”
Amble-based geneticist Bruce Jobson, added: “This confirms what we knew all along, that the Government was aware Foot and Mouth was on the loose long before they identified it at Bobby Waugh’s farm.
“The new Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must now admit that MAFF had covered up the real cause of this outbreak”.
Newcastle-based microbiologist Dr Harash Narang added: “I firmly believe that the virus escaped from a MAFF experiment and had infected sheep as long ago as last October.
“This evidence now supports that belief.”
Mr Waugh said he felt vindicated that he was not responsible for the Foot and Mouth outbreak.
“Again, again and again I have been blamed for this disease, when I knew all along it wasn’t me.
“I now want the Government to admit they got it wrong and tell us all how this thing really started.”
Stuart Renton, a vet for almost 30 years, who works out of the Newcastle Foot and Mouth centre in Kenton Bar, Newcastle, launched a scathing attack on his MAFF employers.
He said he and many other vets working for MAFF believe Mr Waugh is innocent.
Dr Renton says he has seen enough evidence of ‘old’ Foot and Mouth sores on infected sheep to convince him the disease was present in the UK long before 15th February.
And he blasted the Government for adopting the wrong policies to deal with the outbreak. “They made our work extremely harrowing,” he said.
The 50-year-old North East vet’s contract with the MAFF may now be on the line for daring to tell what he believes is the truth.
Throughout the entire Foot and Mouth epidemic MAFF vets have not been allowed to speak about the crisis.
Instead any official comment has only come from MAFF press office in London, its chief scientist Professor David King or Agriculture Minister Nick Brown.
Dr Renton said: “Long standing Foot and Mouth lesions are being found in sheep nationally, indicating the disease was probably present long before the so-called initial outbreak in Heddon. We are still getting pockets of infection in sheep which we cannot trace back to Heddon.”
Dr Renton has been part of the MAFF team diagnosing and overseeing the destruction of animals since taking on a case at Black Callerton, Westerhope on 26th February.
He said: “Along with a number of the veterinary surgeons involved, I have serious doubts over the culling policies being adopted by the Government, which makes our work in this outbreak extremely harrowing,” he said.
“And from day one MAFF has been terribly under-resourced to cope. I knew when I took on case number 10 on 26th February that we were on the edge of a disaster and it’s been playing catch-up ever since.”
MAFF said it was ‘unfortunate’ one of its vets should choose to speak to the press. “We will investigate this immediately,” said a spokeswoman.
Although Dr Renton’s contract with MAFF could be terminated by his decision to speak out, we understand it is unlikely he will lose his job because of a shortage of replacement vets.
A spokesman for the Canadian Government said he was unable to comment on its Foot and Mouth simulation exercise due to agreements it had made with the British Government.
“Due to the sensitivity surrounding events which have occurred since February this year, we are unable to comment further on the reasons or results of the November exercise,” he added.
But a DEFRA spokesman denied that MAFF had tried to cover-up the outbreak.
He said: “We did not know of Foot and Mouth in this country at a time earlier than 21st February, when it was identified at the abattoir in Essex and then traced to Mr Waugh’s farm in Northumberland.
“There has never been any deliberate concealment.
“From time to time we do emergency planning exercises and the inquiries about wood may well have been of this nature.”
According to official records the last official UK Foot and Mouth contingency plan was in 1993.
- NOTE: This investigation led directly to me receiving an honorary doctorate in written journalism from an US university.