Saturday Essay - Frederick Forsyth. Radio 4 -
Sat 11th August 8.55 am

Foot and Mouth Disease.

I haven't touched on it yet but now seems time enough. There are five brief points that one might reasonably make.

First - The incompetence, the sheer blithering, wall-to-wall, start to finish (except that it's not over yet by a mile) incompetence of government and civil service at every single level. Flick back through six months of reports and you cannot believe that highly paid bureaucrats could be so unbelieveably stupid. With the sole exception of the brief intervention of the army, it has been an unbroken litany of mal-administration that, in the legal world, would have offered indictments for criminal negligence.

Second - The cost to us all, now being spin-doctored downwards. In truth it's already £3 billion from tax payers pockets alone. But that's the tip of the iceberg. Add the tens of thousands of guest houses, hotels, visitor attractions, theme parks that will never see a visitor this summer. Fold in the rented diggers, trucks, dumpsters, bulldozers and army staff. Add to that the thousands of salaries for vets and slaughtermen on the payroll for twelve months instead of three. Add the dues of hundreds of millions of lost incomes for this year, next year and the one after. You're looking at a loss to our economy of about 10 billion quid!

And still the piontless, mindless mass slaughter goes on. And you know why? Because otherwise the government, its mandarins and pseudo-scientists might have to admit that they had got it wrong!

So what did they get wrong? Well the alternative - vaccination. Modern vaccines are so cheap, powerful and side-effect free that they can stop this disease in its tracks by creating fire-breaks around every outbreak. Not of festering corpses but of immune animals through which the virus cannot move.

The Dutch, who imported it from us, wiped it out months ago. The two leading FMD epidemioligists in the world, the Britisher, Fred Brown who is so good the Yanks snapped him up years ago and he now works for them, and the Dutchman, Simon Barteling, have pleaded with our government to listen to them. Both flew here at their own expense to explain how to conquer the disease with minimum damage. Both were insultingly disregarded.

The whine is that if we vaccinate we lose our meat export markets worth about £500 million a year. Wrong! For one thing the offspring of vaccinated cows, ewes and sows are Simon Pure and they take a year to breed. And how many times does £500 million go into £10 billion? Twenty years - that's what! Any way we import 500 millions quid of meat every year, some of it cheap stuff from countries with endemic disease. Why don't we just eat our own meat at an affordable price?

Point Four - The Lies. First it was spin doctored that FMD got here via a rogue truck driver. Wrong! It came from either Asia or Africa, probabaly with government licence. Then it was Asian airlines, then Chinese take-aways. All lies! Now its the farmers, again, deliberately poisoning their own lifes work. More lies, directed by job-for-life little weasels in high places - and a community experiencing two suicides a week!

Let's get the facts right. It was the government that devised the compensation scheme, not the farmers! It was the government that appointed the valuers, not the farmers!

Finally - The Cover Up. When new labour came to power, almost the first thing it did was to institute an independent enquiry into the BSE cock-up.Quite properly, the report excoriated the Tory ministers responsible for incompetence and attempted white wash. Now we are told it would be impossible to have an enquiry (into what was far more preventable given that BSE was totally new and nobody new where it came from or what it was. While FMD is short lived and exceedingly well known) because, and I quote, "There would not be the time available". Lies, lies and more lies!

I take no pleasure in saying this but we have some seriously unpleasant people running this country!