MARCH 11, 2008: The Anderson Inquiry Report into the 2007 foot and mouth diseaseoutbreak makes important and welcome recommendations about how futureoutbreaks should be handled but farmers will be disappointed at thelack of criticism of the Government’s failure to help the industryrecover, the NFU said today.
The Inquiry, which was asked to look at how the 2007 outbreak was handled compared to what happened in 2001 rather than its origin, calls for investment in the Pirbright facility and the need for a fully functional livestock data system among its recommendations.NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said the NFU would be discussing the recommendations in detail but, on the face of it, it appeared most of them could be supported.”We would agree with Dr Anderson’s central conclusion that, although there were shortcomings that need to be addressed, the way in which this outbreak was handled represented a vast improvement on what happened in 2001.”His recommendations are welcome, particularly regarding Pirbright and the need for a livestock data system. It is important that we learn the lessons of this outbreak in terms of disease identification, communication and control, and this report will be very helpful in that context.”This was a hugely damaging and costly outbreak which, as Dr Anderson emphasises, should not have happened. He is right in saying that we need to address the underlying cause of the virus leak – a lack of investment in vitally important and potentially world-class research facilities.”However, we do need to find ways not merely of dealing with FMD outbreaks effectively, but of minimising the knock-on impact on the industry. Bear in mind that this was only a small outbreak, involving eight holdings and the slaughter of only a few hundred cattle and sheep. Yet it caused more than £100 million of damage to livestock farming, plus almost £50 million additional costs to the taxpayer. There has to be a smarter way.”I am sure that many farmers would say that the other weakness in the report is that it fails to criticise the Government for its failure to accept any worthwhile degree of responsibility for the consequences of its own failings. To apologise, as Hilary Benn has done repeatedly, is one thing. To help the industry recover, as he has signally failed to do, is very much another.”