Margaret Beckett's "accurate words" show that much of the cull was illegal. is, as so often, grateful to Nicola Morris for this information

While Lord Whitty and Elliot Morley continue to maintain that the cull was legal, it is interesting to remember that Mrs Beckett once memorably said: 'I am someone who tries to use words with great accuracy'. ( 12/11/01 )

She did indeed use her words accurately when she stated only animals which have been "exposed" to FMD can be culled.'

(Debate on the Animal Health Bill in House of Commons 12 November 2001.) ".it has also long been regarded as necessary to cull animals on contiguous premises as well as on infected premises, in order to protect against the spread of disease. Although that has been established policy, there has always been an issue of when animals could be culled. As required by existing legislation, only animals which have been "exposed" to FMD can be culled.'

The culling of healthy animals not exposed to FMD was illegal.

As the Inquiries report their findings, for those willing to study the detail, it will be apparent that not only were many farms culled illegally, they were also culled totally unnecessarily, costing UK businesses and tax payers billions of pounds.

It is the scale of the unnecessary culling that was unprecedented, not the scale of the epidemic.

The latest statistics published in the NAO report ( 18/06/02) show that :

  • of the 2026 so-called "IP" farms, 401 were shown not to be infected
    (samples taken from these farms were found to be negative for FMD in the laboratory)
  • Up to 1700 farms were culled around these negative farms, illegally as clearly these contiguously culled farms could not have been exposed to FMD virus.

    DEFRA maintain that a negative laboratory test is not reliable, but their laboratory at Pirbright will not support this statement. Pirbright have maintained throughout the epidemic that laboratory testing is at least 90% accurate.

    DEFRA will also argue that culling on contiguous farms would have occurred before a negative result was known

    The NAO Inquiry team discovered that a positive result could be known within 3-4 hours, a confirmed negative could be known within 48 hours, though on occasions confirmation took 96 hours. A response to a Parliamentary question (PQ 5478 24/04/02) reveals that only 5% of contiguous farms were culled within 48 hours and 50% were still alive 96 hours after disease was first reported on the 'infected' negative farm.

    Where negative blood tests were known - it made no difference. Contiguous culling or 3 km culling was still going on after negative blood tests had been received.

    One such example was Blackfordby Hall when, according to information later leaked to the owner by someone at Maff who did not like what was going on, it had been known by the second day of the owner's almost month long fight for his pigs, that the blood tests causing him to be targeted were negative. It wasn't until May 15th 2001 that his A notice was withdrawn. Another was Matthew Knight in Devon who resisted the cull when DEFRA continued to press for his animals to be slaughtered even when the IP was known to be clear by means of a negative blood test.