Booker's Notebook

Extract from Oct 7 2001

Channel 4 News was last week used to publicise a curious disinformation campaign by the duo who have since March been running Mr Blair's foot-and-mouth policy.

Professor David King, the Government chief scientist, and Professor Roy Anderson, whose Imperial College computer directed the 'contiguous cull', responsible for the slaughter of three million healthy animals on farms within "three kilometres" of infected premises, now predict the epidemic will last until next spring.

Presenter Jon Snow did not remind them how last April the same computer predicted that outbreaks would fall to zero on June 7, conveniently coinciding with Mr Blair's election date.

The government scientists also claimed that, had their cull policy been more effectively enforced, "one million animals and 400 farms" could have been saved, working out at an improbable 2,500 animals per farm. It was odd how Mr Snow failed to query any of these claims, including the most illogical of all: that, if there was ever another epidemic, vaccination would be at "the top of the agenda", but that, if it had been used this time, it would only have made the epidemic last longer. This is a claim which produces gasps of disbelief from genuine world-class experts on foot-and-mouth like Professor Fred Brown and Dr.Simon Barteling, who have been saying since March that vaccination was the only effective way to bring Britain's epidemic swiftly to an end. It is one thing for our government to hand over direction of the crisis to scientists who have no real expertise in animal diseases. But when their policies predictably fail, and they try to pre-empt criticism with such fanciful claims, it is another for the media to be so uncritical in allowing them to peddle what amounts to no more than propaganda.