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FMD Review Through the Eye of the Beholder

by 5m Editor
12 March 2008, at 2:30pm

UK - Yesterdays review of how the Foot and Mouth Disease crises was handled by the government has received an array of reactions, from Hilary Benn's pride, to Jim McLaren's call for devolution.

Hilary Benn's positive outlook

The secretary of state, Hilary Benn, said that he and Mr Brown had "invited Dr Iain Anderson to lead an independent review into the lessons learned from the response to the 2007 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease." The general conclusion of the review said that the contingency planning had improved, but cast criticism on the whole source of the outbreak.

A statement by Hilary Benn admitted that further areas of concern were raised in Dr Anderson’s report. The performance of the information and data management systems that are needed during a disease outbreak. 'We have not made the progress we would have liked in this area despite considerable efforts. However as part of Animal Health’s Business Reform Programme a new information and data management system is being implemented. This will deliver improvements between now and 2011.'

However, Hilary Benn believes that Dr Anderson’s review commends the Government’s overall handling of the outbreak. 'He states that “many of the lessons identified in the 2002 report had been acted upon and performance, taken as a whole, was much improved”. “In analysing how the 2007 outbreak was handled, with its innumerable, interwoven decisions and actions, we found much to applaud, along with some deficiencies. On balance, the positive easily outweighs the negative”'.

NFU Asks, 'what about the farmers?'

The NFU were quick to welcome recommendations about how future outbreaks should be handled but said that farmers will be disappointed at the lack of criticism of the Government's failure to help the industry recover.

"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." said NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond

"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.

NFU Scotland call for devolution

Scotland’s farming union has said that the review of the foot and mouth outbreak has highlighted the urgent need to address the tensions between devolved administrations and the UK Government on animal health matters.

Reacting to the report, NFUS President Jim McLaren said:

“The current position where Scotland decides on animal health policy but has no control over its funding is an anomaly of the Scotland Act. It inevitably causes tensions north and south of the border and, frankly, that is the last thing we need when we’re facing a disease crisis.

“This is not just about handling disease outbreaks, it is about the day to day protection of animal health in Scotland. With Defra now facing a major budgetary squeeze from the Treasury, there is a very real likelihood that the priorities that industry and Government in Scotland have developed together will fall by the wayside because London won’t pay for them. We need the animal health budget devolved to Scotland as a matter of urgency, something the Prime Minister has said he is open to looking at.

Further Reading

- Go to our other news item on this story by clicking here.
More information
- You can view Dr Anderson's full report by clicking here.

5m Editor