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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 16:23 GMT
Campaigners demand disease inquiry
Sheep being tested for foot-and-mouth in the Brecon Beacons
Three foot-and-mouth inquiries will take place
A Tory MP has said it is "shameful" campaigners are having to resort to the courts to push for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Farmers, hoteliers and vets are preparing to go to the High Court next month to seek a judicial review for a public inquiry into the handling of last year's outbreak.

The crisis affected thousands of people, but we are still not entitled to the truth

Farmer Andrew Gunther

The government has already announced that it will hold three independent inquiries into the crisis.

But shadow rural affairs secretary Peter Ainsworth said on Friday that this was not good enough.

He argued that ministers had "consistently refused to render themselves accountable for the decisions they took".

'No confidence'

"If, as they claim, they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear from an independent inquiry," he said.

The government announced in August three inquiries to cover the government's handling of the outbreak, a scientific review and a commission on the future of farming and food.

Conservative MP Peter Ainsworth
Mr Ainsworth: Ministers have refused to be accountable
Farmer Andrew Gunther, of South Molton, Devon, who lost 3,000 organic chickens, is among the campaigners due to take their fight to the High Court.

He said that he had no confidence in the these three inquiries.

"The crisis affected thousands of people, but we are still not entitled to the truth," he said.

"Everyone wants to know what went on last year, and a public inquiry would be the cheapest way to do it."

The judicial review is being sought by three groups of 16 campaigners from Cumbria, Devon, Somerset, Wales and Yorkshire.

Their cases are due to be heard together at the High Court on the first anniversary of the discovery of the first case - 16 February.

They hope that around 1,000 farmers will turn up at the High Court in support of their application.

Since the first outbreak in Essex in February, 2,030 cases have led to the culling of 3.9 million animals and the slaughter of a further two million for welfare reasons.

The last case was in Cumbria on 30 September.

See also:

28 Dec 01 | Review of 2001
F&M: The rural nemesis
28 Dec 01 | Business
Farmers sow seeds of enterprise
29 Nov 01 | England
Final area loses infected status
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