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Lessons Of Foot And Mouth Must Be Learned - NFU

The NFU today published its first full review of the handling of the world's
worst ever foot and mouth outbreak - a catalogue of failures on every issue
from import controls and contingency planning to communications.

Launching Lessons to be Learned, NFU President Ben Gill issued a stark
warning: "The lessons of the 1967 outbreak were very clearly ignored in
2001. The Government was ill-prepared, overwhelmed and, too often,
incompetent. This time they must listen. "

Based on the NFU's experiences of dealing with Government, scientists, and
the first-hand experiences of farmers and NFU staff, the report lists a
series of recommendations and criticisms:

On import controls: These are inadequate and - worse - there are no clear
signs of any improvement.

On the control strategy: Resources were poorly co-ordinated and were quickly
overwhelmed, leading to a rapid spread of the epidemic. There was a failure
to widely apply successful bio-security schemes. The contiguous cull - while
necessary - was applied too rigidly. There was a failure to communicate
clearly on vaccination, compounded by a lack of scientific research.

On movement controls: There was inadequate resourcing and preparation of
licensing systems and an unclear basis for balancing disease control and
commercial needs.

On cleaning and disinfection: There was a lack of proper control from the
centre and repeated delays and mistakes in issuing contracts.

On contingency planning: This failed to involve all the major stakeholders
and had not been properly tested or updated. There was, for example,
inadequate planning for disposal of slaughtered animals and for animal
welfare problems.

The report lists 28 recommendations, including in broad terms that:
* Import controls must be improved.
* There must be better contingency planning, organisation and
* Further scientific research is needed to ensure more flexible
control strategies.
* Communication failures within Government and with the industry must
be addressed.
* There should be a clearer, fairer and more efficient system of
valuation and compensation.

Ben Gill said: "It is hard to overstate the profound sense of waste and loss
- emotional as much as financial - that farmers feel about this whole
appalling episode. But their hurt has been compounded by a catalogue of
delays, failures, incompetence and inadequacies.

"For many, on top of the pressures they were already facing, foot and mouth
will end their farming lives.

"We owe it to these people in particular, and to the livestock industry, the
wider farming community and society in general to ensure that the lessons of
this horrendous episode are learned and acted on with a degree of urgency
that has been lacking in recent months."

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