NFU disappointed by Anderson FMD Report

12 March, 2008

Farming leaders have expressed disappointment at the Anderson Inquiry Report's lack of criticism of the government's failure to help the industry recover after FMD.

Recommendations in the report, which looked at how the 2007 outbreak was handled compared to what happened in 2001 rather than its origin, included calls for investment in the Pirbright facility and the need for a fully functional livestock data system.

Dr Iain Anderson's review said that the handling of the 2007 outbreak was much better than in 2001, but there were still lessons to be learned.

"In examing the 2007 outbreak, we found much to applaud, along with some deficiencies," he said. "On balance, the positive easily outweighs the negative."

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. However, he critised the report for failing to hold the government to account.

"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," said Raymond.

"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."

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