A lesson in spinning into control

What do you do when you realise that - in spite of all your best efforts at misinformation, persuasion, propaganda and downright intimidation - the two "independent" reports into the UK Foot and Mouth disaster are still going to advocate vaccination and condemn your handling of the crisis?

  • It's OK Everyone. Cool down. Don't forget that everyone concerned always remembered to repeat the mantra "we have never ruled out vaccination"

  • Look, Rule One...victims become aggressors, right? - helpful journos repeat over and over again that all farmers are:

    1. avaricious (all those millions in compensation..No..NO ONE knows about all the many hundreds whose livelihoods were destroyed because of Form D's)

    2. cruel (that useful Waugh verdict ..Half the evidence thoughtfully ignored and what a gift the appearance of that man was!)

    3. dirty (all that mud) ,

    4. bloodthirsty (well, they all love hunting ),

    5. obstreperous (resisting the killing of their healthy stock which would have...um...saved so many animals. You simply have to laugh...)

    6. whingeing (all that moaning about red tape and being tied up in bureaucratic regulations when it's all For Their Own Good - yeah we can swing that one)

    7. utterly irresponsible (we'll say they are like school children failing to own up to owning that pig. That's right. ALL of them are to blame...so easy.)

  • All Nick Brown's responsibility - a weak man out of his depth - It's OK..his sycophancy to Tony really passes all bounds. There'll be no public complaints - remember what he was like when Nick Whatsit interviewed him on Radio Four? No probs

  • Demon farmers again - it was their resistance to vaccination that stopped us vaccinating last time. Say that...um..."The U-turn will anger many farmers who fear that vaccination will jeopardise millions of pounds in exports."

  • Good old attack - so very much the best form of defence ...thank god for the Pig at "Selby"...." attacked the livestock industry for what they see as the latest failure of the current system. They are angry that strict disease controls were not observed during a suspected foot-and-mouth outbreak in Leicestershire last week."

  • Time now for some pious pronouncements to show our deep concern for fairness and for the poor taxpayer....and never forget.. Tourism Good: Farming Bad : "Senior government figures say the taxpayer and the tourism industry cannot be expected to pay the price for saving a meat export market worth less than £100 million

  • Holland vaccinated but ... it killed the vaccinates - (No one ever really got that this was in the face of the wishes of the entire population including the farmers who were tricked so it's OK)

  • Time to wheel in the EU and say it will be brought to a new view of things by our own common sense - pre-empting, incidentally, what is evidently going to be the EU Temporary Commission's own report: Let's say... "However, ministers believe that the EU, which is conducting its own inquiries into livestock vaccination, can be persuaded to adopt the new policy."

  • By means of a little judicious air-brushing, we can cast Elliot Morley in the rôle of Vaccine Hero who valiantly tried to get vaccination through..."Mr Morley prepared a plan for Downing Street on vaccinating animals....."

  • at the same time we can chuck Ben Gill overboard "..... However, he was opposed by Ben Gill, the National Farmers' Union leader"....

    .

  • and we could even...even... (may as well! ) put blame on "consumer groups" as well as business and consumer groups....." but hang on! Be extremely careful not to name these groups or it may occur to someone to recall the National Consumer Council's note that they never asked for labelling

  • Finally, we muddy the waters one more time with the ownerless pig - people will rush to blame farmers rather than Trading Standards or DEFRA - they have never even heard of Trading Standards! (Have the Tories? Doubt it!) There we are. Home and dry.

    Phew. Now then...which journalists shall we invite to Number Ten for drinkies?

    An end to the mass slaughter
    Times
    By Tom Baldwin and Valerie Elliott

    Ministers to back foot-and-mouth vaccine

    THE vaccination of cows, pigs and sheep against foot-and-mouth disease is set to be sanctioned by ministers after the mass slaughter and £8 billion cost of last year's epidemic.

    Two government reports being published next month will herald fundamental changes in the way that future outbreaks are handled.

    The U-turn will anger many farmers who fear that vaccination will jeopardise millions of pounds in exports. Consumer groups and food businesses have also suggested that it could lead to products being labelled with disease warnings.

    However, The Times has learnt that an official scientific inquiry headed by Sir Brian Follett for the Royal Society will recommend scrapping the slaughter policy which saw ten million animals killed and the devastation of Britain's rural economy last year.

    Instead, the report will say that healthy animals should be vaccinated to prevent the disease spreading and that there is no reason why meat or other products from such livestock cannot then be sold on supermarket shelves.

    At the same time another government inquiry into last year's epidemic will be published, which is expected to criticise Nick Brown, the former Agriculture Minister.

    Disclosure of the reports came as ministers attacked the livestock industry for what they see as the latest failure of the current system. They are angry that strict disease controls were not observed during a suspected foot-and-mouth outbreak in Leicestershire last week. The Follett inquiry's recommendations are likely to be accepted by Margaret Beckett, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, next month. Senior goverment figures say the taxpayer and the tourism industry cannot be expected to pay the price for saving a meat export market worth less than £100 million - a fraction of the outbreak's cost last year. The Netherlands used vaccination to control the spread of outbreaks last year but later slaughtered the animals and destroyed their carcasses to regain the disease-free status needed for exports within the European Union. However, ministers believe that the EU, which is conducting its own inquiries into livestock vaccination, can be persuaded to adopt the new policy. There is also growing optimism about new synthetic vaccines being developed which, unlike existing products, do not carry any risk of contaminating healthy animals.
    This could lead to routine vaccinations of livestock at birth, a practice which previously led to import of meat from countries such as Argentina being banned or heavily restricted.
    Elliot Morley, the Animal Health Minister, told The Times last night: I am a firm advocate for vaccination as part of a contingency plan. I only want to have a policy of vaccinate to live' - otherwise what is the point? He said that for the moment blanket vaccination of every animal in Britain would be difficult because there are so many strains of the disease and would make it difficult to export meat. The minister insisted that objections from consumer groups and retailers to selling meat and dairy produce from vaccinated animals could be overcome.
    During last year's epidemic, Mr Morley prepared a plan for Downing Street on vaccinating animals. However, he was opposed by Ben Gill, the National Farmers' Union leader, as well as business and consumer groups. At the height of the epidemic, a meeting with Tony Blair at Chequers which included Mr Gill, supermarket chiefs and food processing firms, finally rejected the plan. Since then the Government has faced sustained criticism over its handling of the crisis, which cost the taxpayer £3 billion and the private sector - including tourism - a further £5 billion. The Government's second inquiry into the epidemic, headed by Iain Anderson, a former Unilever executive, is expected to be published on July 18, the same week as the Royal Society report.
    Mr Brown, who was moved from Agriculture to the Department of Work and Pensions after the election, is believed to have been singled out for failing to take decisive action to prevent the outbreak turning into an epidemic. However, he is understood to have persuaded Dr Anderson to tone down some of his comments. The final report is likely to acknowledge that ministers were facing a virtually unprecedented situation and had to make decisions under intense pressure.
    Ministers yesterday were reeling after a breach of disease controls was uncovered. Mr Morley said he was horrified and blamed rogues in the industry. He has called an urgent meeting with pig farmers next week to discuss the findings and to urge them to root out any cowboy farmers. He is angry that ten days after a pig was identified with suspected foot-and-mouth disease vets have been unable to track down the owner. A criminal investigation is now underway at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The pig was spotted at Dawkins International abattoir in Congerstone, Leicestershire and was one of 66 collected from Selby market on Wednesday last week. This pig and some of the consignment had no identification marks on them. Some 34 farmers from Yorkshire, however, had sent pigs to the market that day but no one has owned up to being the owner of the animal.