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Law professors say F&M cull was illegal

By Beth Broomby

TWO law professors have concluded that the mass slaughter of animals during the foot-and-mouth crisis was illegal, inhumane and could happen again.

In a new report, professors David Campbell and Bob Lee of Cardiff Law School describe Government regulatory policies designed to tackle the spreading disease as “hopelessly inadequate” and say the contiguous cull was a “panic” response carried out in a climate of “lawlessness”.

They have also warned another outbreak of similar proportion could still happen.

The report states: “We reach the sad conclusion that few lessons have been learned from the outbreak, as the very practices largely responsible for the epidemic are still prevalent and legislation and contingency planning show signs of a preparedness merely to repeat the same mistakes.” The report - Carnage by Computer: The Blackboard Economics of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Epidemic – accuses the Government of implementing policy which worked perfectly in abstract on a computer screen in London but failed when applied on the ground hundreds of miles away.

The report argues that during the cull the former Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (Maff) descended into “criminal authoritarianism” and exceeded its own powers to implement a policy “so lacking in merit that it could not have been implemented by rational persuasion.

“It was because these practices and policies were implemented in an environment of almost total lawlessness that the government’s response to their failure could take the form of immense, unlawful slaughter.” In their 57-page report the academics also paint a picture of foot-and-mouth Britain where terrified animals were being maimed instead of killed and buried or incinerated alive.

They claim animals were killed in ways which were “criminally inhumane and sometimes so horribly cruel as to be an occasion of lasting national shame.” Professor Campbell told The Westmorland Gazette in carrying out the research he had been struck both by the plight of so many individuals who had had their livelihoods taken away and of reports of cruelty to animals during the slaughter.

“We have been inundated with people telling us their stories and how they suffered. It is bewildering from a legal point of view that people can have their livelihoods just taken away from them.” Government ministers have criticised the report and this week a DEFRA spokesman told The Westmorland Gazette: “DEFRA disagrees with the legal view expressed. The policy of culling animals on holdings contiguous to a site on which FMD had been confirmed was lawful both under UK and EU law. Our actions have been upheld in various judicial challenges and we believe the views expressed are highly partial.” The spokesman added: “There have been attempts to change livestock practices. DEFRA recently issued an all-encompassing biosecurity code. Post 2001 there have been a range of movement standstill regimes applying to livestock to reduce the risk of disease spread, and there has also been new proposals on the identification of livestock. The ban on swill feeding was also introduced as a direct result of the FMD outbreak.” Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Collins welcomed the fact the report was an independent, in-depth, emphatic study by individuals “with no axe to grind”.

National Farmers Union North West spokesman Gill Shearer said there had clearly been major Government failings in the early weeks of the outbreak but said the NFU was working hard to ensure lessons were learned.

She said Britain now had some of the best animal tracking schemes in Europe and farmers should be praised for working within new tighter rules for animal movements brought in post foot-and -mouth.

8:23am Friday 5th September 2003

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http://www.thisisthelakedistrict.co.uk/news/headlines/display.var.409646.0.report_claims_footandmouth_culls_were_illegal.php

Report claims Foot-and-Mouth culls were illegal

By Beth Broomby

TWO law professors have concluded that the mass slaughter of animals during the foot-and-mouth crisis was illegal, inhumane and could happen again.

In a new report, professors David Campbell and Bob Lee of Cardiff Law School describe Government regulatory policies designed to tackle the spreading disease as “hopelessly inadequate” and say the contiguous cull was a “panic” response carried out in a climate of “lawlessness”.

They have also warned another outbreak of similar proportion could still happen.

The report states: “We reach the sad conclusion that few lessons have been learned from the outbreak, as the very practices largely responsible for the epidemic are still prevalent and legislation and contingency planning show signs of a preparedness merely to repeat the same mistakes.” The report - Carnage by Computer: The Blackboard Economics of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Epidemic – accuses the Government of implementing policy which worked perfectly in abstract on a computer screen in London but failed when applied on the ground hundreds of miles away.

See Farm and Country for the full story.

8:09am Friday 5th September 2003