EU PARLIAMENT BLASTS GOVERNMENT'S HANDLING
OF FOOT & MOUTH CRISIS
Members of the European Parliament's year-long inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis voted today on its final devastating account of the UK government's handling of the outbreak.
South West Conservative MEP and Member of the Committee, Neil Parish MEP, said after the vote:
"Almost every line of this report should shame the government. Its inept handling of the foot and mouth outbreak is now well documented. It is no surprise that the government has done everything in its powers to hide this evidence from the British people.
The report shows that the outbreak could have been better contained if the government had put in place an immediate ban on the movement of animals.
It shows how farmers were intimidated, procedures ignored and EU laws flouted.
There is also clear evidence that the government has been falsifying figures in an attempt to play down the true impact of the outbreak. Government figures suggest that 6 million animals were slaughtered. Our findings point to a figure of 10 million."
Please find attached a detailed breakdown of text adopted.
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4 "remains controversial and doubtful whether the 24/48-hour contiguous cull strategy was really responsible for curbing the epidemic".
6 "the large number of animals culled caused enormous problems in the disposal of animal carcasses which could perhaps, to some extent, have been reduced by means of vaccination on neighbouring farms within a certain radius of infected farms".
12 Adds criticism of the UK Government for failing to impose an immediate movement ban and says that this led to a "considerable increase in a number of cases".
Unchanged text from Draft Report : (numbers refer to Report paragraphs)
12 “...contingency plans and the logistical and staffing preparations for an outbreak of FMD ....in the United Kingdom were suffering from considerable shortcomings”.
17 “The British Government’s information policy was inadequate, both before and during the crisis. The content of the contingency plan was not known to the public at the beginning of the outbreak or for some time during it”.
19 “bureaucratic and formalistic procedures…delays in decision making and carrying out measures by the authorities, particularly in connection with the disposal of animal carcasses, the lack of effective contingency plans, inadequately informed veterinary staff. Staff shortages at the locally established disease control units, and violations of animal welfare legislation during culls...These shortcomings and the sometimes inadequate information policy caused considerable stress among those concerned... In individual cases, it was reported that farmers who were affected had been intimidated and pressurised in connection with the culls”
New text adopted by Committee today (20/11/2002):(numbers refer to amendment numbers)
13 "Since only a very small number of cases were actually tested, and that relatively few cases were confirmed to have the disease on laboratory testing, it is crucial that the epidemiological data be published and subject to independent critical analysis, so that lessons about disease spread and control can be learned for the future."
29 "No evidence that that the UK took heed of the 1999 European report guidelines in altering UK strategic policy. Contingency planning for vaccination was minimal. This was a major flaw in UK contingency planning and policy implementation, which should have been reviewed by the Commission and appropriate corrective action taken".
36 "Contingency plans should take account of disposal capacity to ensure that sufficient capacity exists to dispose of animal carcasses. These plans must include pre-identified sites, which take account of public health, food safety, social and environmental concerns. Member States should consider whether disposal resources may be shared."
45 "The handling of the epidemic was characterised by a lack of co-ordination between veterinary and policy staff within the State Veterinary Service and between the Regions and the centre. This led to a number of difficulties in defining and implementing the Government's control strategy. A clear delineation of powers was lacking."
47 "The number of full-time State veterinary staff in the UK has been reduced by about half in the past 20 years. Moreover, this considerable cut in the number of staff employed by the State veterinary service has been accompanied by the closure of local veterinary centres and a concentration on regional centres, which has inevitably resulted in a loss of knowledge of local conditions. Overall, this has weakened the capacity for responding to the crisis, particularly as the number of livestock has increased significantly over the same period. At the beginning of the epidemic, there were not enough staff to cope with the rapidly growing number of infected farms and carry out the requisite inspection and eradication measures. Many offers of help from veterinary surgeons in the UK, both with and without previous experience of FMD were ignored though hundreds of foreign vets were deployed, which led to confusion and uncertainty among farmers, partly on account of linguistic communication problems."
53 "The provision of information from State sources to local bodies and the farmers affected was poor and advice from the various government departments was repeatedly altered, inconsistent or even contradictory. Moreover, the UK's National Farmers' Union reported that MAFF officials frequently contacted the NFU's own helpline to seek advice as they were unable to obtain the information required from within MAFF itself."
63 Says that the contiguous cull was "a strategy which was fraught with inevitable lax bio-security and documented infringements of animal welfare laws".
77 "The British Government’s decision to bury animal carcasses in mass graves or burn them on pyres as part of the mass culls was, at least in some cases, taken without adequate consultation of local institutions. Because of this, there were breaches of human and environmental health guidelines (deletion) (1) from emissions and groundwater pollution. It placed a huge burden on the populations of the areas concerned, and television pictures of the burning pyres and mass burials shocked the public on animal welfare grounds and had a catastrophic impact on tourism in those areas."
132 "It has become clear from the 2001 epidemic that mass culling on the scale seen in the UK and the Netherlands will not be publicly acceptable again and that alternative strategies are therefore essential."
- in future when an outbreak occurs, emergency vaccinations, with the aim of allowing animals to live for normal further use, should no longer be regarded as a last resort for controlling FMD but must be considered as a first choice option from the outset;
- emergency vaccination to be carried out in those cases in which it is possible to avoid mass burial or burning on pyres;
- more to be done to tighten up border controls and control meat imports;
- The European Commission must as a matter of urgency review its policy with a view to introducing, as is the case in the United States, a ban on imports of meat and products of animal origin from third countries where FMD and other infectious animal diseases are endemic.
In addition, the report recommends that all farmers, not just those who lost livestock, but those who suffered consequentially along with other affected industries such as tourism, should be entitled to compensation.