Letter: Farmers under fire

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Sir: You report that Iain McGill claimed that he and Gerald Wells of the Central Veterinary Laboratory discovered a spongiform encepalopathy disease in a cat ("BSE scientist was `censored' ", 11 December). They had informed their managers at CVL of their suspicions but their report was suppressed.

In April 1990 Dr Geoffrey Pearson and his colleague Janet Wyatt (now Bradshaw) of the University of Bristol found a scrapie-like disease in a cat during a routine post-mortem.

They immediately took steps to see that this disease was adequately reported. Bristol supplied material from the cat's brain to CVL so that it could come to its own confirming conclusion.

They reported their findings in an urgent letter to the appropriate scientific journal, The Veterinary Record, which appeared in May 1990. There was also, virtually simultaneously, a release of the information through a press release. The findings were reported at scientific conferences in Birmingham and Brussels within a matter of months.

As the work progressed there were a number of papers published by Bristol, either by itself or in conjunction with the CVL and colleagues at Edinburgh. At no time in that process was their work in any way delayed or censored by the Ministry of Agriculture or by the CVL.

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