Failures in EU & UK planning led to FMD disaster
The U.K. Independence Party has obtained EU documents which reveal that last year's multi-billion pound foot and mouth disaster was caused by a total breakdown of European Union & British emergency planning.
U.K. Independence Party leader Jeffrey Titford MEP, in a report presented to the European Parliament's inquiry into the disaster, shows that more than 9 million animals might have been spared from the mass slaughter, and the British economy could have been saved the GBP 10 billion cost of the catastrophe. Mr Titford said, "Had planning been more effective & realistic, the 2001 epidemic could have been a minor incident over in weeks, instead of one of the greatest catastrophes ever inflicted on Britain's countryside."
Mr Titford's report highlights the breakdowns in the system, with blame apportioned evenly between the European Commission and the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (MAFF, now DEFRA). The primary failure was that, although MAFF complied with a Commission decree of 1990 to draw up contingency plans, the plans were neither checked by the Commission, nor did MAFF ensure it had sufficient resources to implement it in any but the smallest outbreak. In any event, MAFF's plan did not in any case meet the EU guidelines.
Although the Commission formally approved the plans in 1993, it did so without actually examining them until 6 years later, in 1999. The UK plan was not due for review until 2001, despite the legal requirements of the original directive.
Further, the original directive had called for immediate vaccination for all but small scale outbreaks, and this was confirmed in a confidential report issued by the Commission's scientific veterinary committee in 1999, which also warned that the risk of an outbreak of foot and mouth was "extraordinarily high". The report also set 10 criteria for the use of vaccination, and required governments to be fully prepared to implement vaccination programmes if any of these criteria were met.
Despite these preparations, MAFF was not in a position either to respond effectively or to implement a vaccination programme, primarily because it had ignored Commission guidance whilst failing to produce an alternative policy. Therefore, it was forced to rely on a mass slaughter programme, with disasterous consequences to the wider rural economy.
Mr Titford has called for a special hearing of the European Parliament inquiry to discuss these planning failures. A provisional date has been set for July.