the Campaign for Independent Food
PO Box 16141 London SE1 4ZH
Telephone: 020 8740 7194
Honest Food welcomes vote in House of Lords
Triumph of sanity
The campaigning organization Honest Food today welcomed the vote in the House of Lords that postponed a more detailed discussion of the Animal Health Bill until the various enquiries on the course of the foot and mouth epidemic had been completed and the government replied to them.
"The Bill, nicknamed by all who had read it, the Animal Death Bill, was completely unacceptable" - said the Director of Honest Food, Dr Helen Szamuely. "Its aim was to make legal in retrospect the Governments illegal contiguous cull, that had resulted in 11 million animals being slaughtered unnecessarily. It would have given the Government, the Ministry and its agents unprecedented rights to enter peoples property and dispose of animals, demanding on pain of prosecution that owners and their friends give all the help to the slaughterers. Some of the implications were positively Stalinist."
Honest Food further pointed out that the science on which the Animal Health Bill was based is dubious. The Government and DEFRA should look more seriously at the methods used in other parts of the world to deal with foot and mouth, that is vaccination. Wholesale slaughter cannot possibly be the only method of dealing with animal diseases in the twenty-first century.
Nor is the second part of the Bill that deals with scrapie any more sound scientifically. It has been pointed out by numerous scientists and veterinary surgeons that the eradication of a genotype in sheep will not necessarily eradicate scrapie as not enough is known about genotypes or about the many different strains of the disease. Once again, the Government was proposing wholesale slaughter instead of an attempt to deal with the disease.
An obsession with spin
Honest Food expressed strong condemnation of the Governments reaction to the vote in the House of Lords that postponed the committee stage of the Bill. "To suggest that the only reason the Lords voted for Lord Morans extremely sensible amendment was anger at the hunting vote in the House of Commons is preposterous and shows a ridiculous obsession on the part of the Ministers with spin and with hunting. It was clear from the second reading of the Bill in January (before the Mittall affair, the Byers fisaco and the subsequent hunting debates) that feelings about it ran high in the House of Lords." - explained Dr Szamuely. - "Lord Moran gave notice of his amendment at the time, pointing out that the Government should at least listen to the enquiries it had set up before rushing into legislation. The Government cannot have it both ways. They accuse the House of Lords of representing the interests of country people, land and livestock owners and then say that they are irresponsible about livestock keeping. It is quite clear that this Bill did not have the support of anyone connected with the welfare of animals; it was opposed by organizations connected with the countryside such as the Countryside Alliance and the CLA; it was opposed by the Rare Breeds Trust and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. That is a pretty clean sweep. Are they all irresponsible?"
Honest Food has also pointed to the fact the Government on its own admission had not implemented any of the findings of the Northumberland Commission about the last foot and mouth epidemic or the provisions of the EU Contingency Plan for FMD of July 2000. How can they demand more draconian powers supposedly to fight the disease, when they have not used the ones they have properly? How can they say they are doing their best to prepare for any future outbreak if they will not have a full public enquiry, will not look at the findings of the independent Devon and Northumberland enquiries and will not wait for the reports of the committees they themselves have set up.
The vote in the House of Lords will give everyone a chance to think more carefully about the best way of preparing for possible outbreaks in the future and will allow all concerned to look at more scientific ways of dealing with animal diseases.
Notes for editors:
1. Honest Food is part of the Countryside Alliance. It campaigns for diversity in food production, consumer choice and rural livelihoods.
2. Honest Foods chairman is the Countess of Mar and director Dr Helen Szamuely
3. For further information contact Dr Helen Szamuely on 020 8740 7194, mobile: 07733018999, e-mail: email@example.com