FMD efficiency

Editors comment: The hazards of writing about foot-and-mouth while the crisis is potentially ongoing are numerous.

The hazards of writing about foot-and-mouth while the crisis is potentially ongoing are numerous. As I sat down to write how the industry was starting to breathe a sigh of relief, news arrived that a farm in Kent was at the heart of another suspected outbreak.

Hopefully, this will prove to be negative - as will later reports of another case in Surrey - and is simply the result of vigilant farmers and a cautious approach from Defra. The temptation is to say over-cautious, but with a disease as devastating and contagious as FMD, we can never be cautious enough.

We're not out of the woods yet, but the way the outbreak has been handled this time around, compared with 2001, could not be more different. The efficiency with which Defra and the various agencies have responded to FMD must be commended.

While there will obviously be some gripes to be had, the overall response

has been strong, decisive and effective (fingers crossed).

In some respects, the conditions for containment this time round have been on the government's side. The fact the suspected source of the outbreak was traced quickly and the disease originated in Surrey, not exactly the capital county of agriculture, has certainly aided the battle to stop FMD's spread. The challenge going forward will be to ensure the industry makes a full and rapid recovery and that everyone - from farmers to processors to retailers - works together to that end.

On another note, I'd like to add my condolences to the friends and family of Peter Scott, who passed away suddenly on Sunday. I'd had a number of dealings with Peter over the years and it was always a pleasure. It was already a sad day when he retired from the BMPA, but his unexpected death leaves an the industry a much poorer place for his loss.

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