Dept of Enviroment, Food and Rural Affairs
- what is it for??
Given the scant comments of both Tony Blair
and Margaret Beckett regarding agriculture, etc, at the Labour Party Conference
I wonder if it would be timely to ask has this new dept really joined up the
dots, and can and does the Govt really appreciate the inter-dependent and
inter-related nature of the rural UK and its communities..
new name there is nothing of substance to suggest that the Govt has understood
that without a sustainable, viable and robust agricultural base many of the
other elements of the rural economy and its diverse environments will not
Already ungrazed pasture in the wake of FMD is starting to
change the appearance of the countryside. Farming practices generally and
the pattern of land use has shaped and evolved the rural landscape.
Without sustainably farmed land; grazed, cropped or managed in some other way,
the face of the countryside will alter dramatically. As it becomes unkempt
and uncared for it is obvious to see that pressure for land to be taken out of
farming and used for housing and other development will increase. Is
this really the aim of the Dept of Food, Environment and Rural
As stated at the Labour Party Conference the way ahead, as
described by Mrs Beckett, would seem to revolve around reduced subsidies and a
globalisation of food production. Given the imbalance between health and
welfare standards of UK produced food and imported food - which leads to much
cheaper imports - the future of the farmed landscape looks increasingly bleak,
and with it the many related industries, not least tourism.
I do not know
how we seek reassurance from this administration, or any other, that this will
not be the outcome. As you will see from the accompanying Press
Release issued a Year on from Foot & Mouth after 18 months of involvement
with FMD this is the picture which increasingly comes into focus.
THE NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH
Co-ordinating Office: 3 The
Cirencester, Glos. GL7 6EY
644319 / 01285 656812
A YEAR ON FROM FOOT & MOUTH
7 No Lessons Learnt from Foot
and Mouth 2001
7 An Animal Health Bill set to
make the same mistakes again
7 No Government Blue Print for a Sustainable
Future for Rural Britain
A Year on from the Foot and Mouth Crisis the
Government has no Contingency Plan in place to deal with another outbreak any
differently than it did in 2001. The Royal Society recommendations
have not been acted upon, no provision has been made to use Vaccination and the
Government has given no indication that it intends to do so.
Animal Health Bill is due to proceed without debate. A Bill that will even
further extend and increase the Minister's powers to seize and slaughter farm
animals and livestock, purely on the grounds that the Minister 'thinks' such
animals "should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of
disease". The Bill has not been founded on substantive scientific or
empirical data and information.
A Year on there has still been no
critical, independent analysis of the epidemiological data about Foot and Mouth;
and there has been no proper, independent, transparent Inquiry.
future of farming, the rural economy, its landscape and communities is at
stake. Critical decisions need to be taken by the Government if the
Lessons of Foot & Mouth are truly to be learnt. But the recent
suspect case in Cornwall has shown nothing has changed. There appears to
have been no advancement in rapid FMD testing devices, only farmers in an 8km
zone were put under temporary movement restrictions, and clearly there is no
provision to respond to a possible outbreak with the modern vaccines and
differential tests recommended by the Royal Society Inquiry.
outbreak of Foot & Mouth would be responded to with exactly the same
horrific mass slaughter and cull that was the hallmark of the barbarity
witnessed in 2001.
As far as we can discern Government policy
relies solely on the far reaching and draconian powers of the new Animal Health
Bill. In addition, the Government appears content with an increasing and
unfettered globalisation of food production, which does not distinguish between
the animal welfare or health standards of imports and UK produced
food. With a food supply chain which no longer delivers a living
wage to many farmers, and with supermarkets having ever increasing power and
control to determine how food is produced, distributed and marketed.
What is needed is sustainable agriculture and food production which
protects the unique countryside of the UK and ensures the survival of a rich and
diverse environment, a thriving rural economy and dynamic
The complex, inter-related and inter-dependent nature of
farming, tourism and rural life needs to be urgently addressed. More
draconian powers to slaughter animals - due to be adopted in the Animal Health
Bill - are not the answer.
The Countryside is our most vital
resource. With its vast diversity, its capacity to feed us and its ability
to be the green lungs of the nation we cannot afford to squander it. But a
Year on from Foot and Mouth the Government appears to have done nothing to
ensure that this resource would not again be devastated by another outbreak of