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Breakfast Monday, 22 July, 2002, 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK
Foot and mouth: lessons to be learned
Seven million animals were slaughtered
Criticism of the government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis last year is expected in an official inquiry's report due out on Monday.

The Lessons to be Learned inquiry is expected to highlight ministers' failure to prepare properly for an outbreak on that scale and to halt the spread of the disease quickly enough.

  • Breakfast spoke to John Pratt, a cattle farmer. He said:

    I did not agree with the mass culling, and the not clearing up of dead animals for up to a fortnight. The smell and pollution was intolerable. This should never have happened. I don't agree on mass culling, we have to agree on mass vaccination. We should have gone down this route. Vaccination is the way forward.

  • We check out the cost to tourism with Peter Smith who runs a hotel in Builth Wells. He said:

    We were empty for up to 5 months. It cost us 16 of our full time staff. We lost all the big agricultural shows on the grounds and we are only now going to 2000 level. The revenue we lost in 2002 is lost. The worst thing that happened is a knee jerk reaction by the Welsh assembly who sent out a circular saying there should be no conferenced in Mid Wales. It cost 16 people their jobs, and we were in the ludricous situation where people were having to pass our hotel to go outside the area to have their conference and then return past our hotel to go back to their office. I don't have confidence that lessons have been learned.

  • We also talked to Ben Gill President of the National Farmers Union.

    The damage done to tourism from the effective closure of the countryside is also likely to be focused on by the last of three independent inquiries into the epidemic.

    Inquiry's terms of reference
    Vaccination merits
    Adequacy of contingency plans
    Was government response effective?
    Was response justified?
    Was farming community prepared?
    And the need to bring in the army sooner will be one of the inquiry's key recommendations for handling any future outbreak, according to the Times newspaper.

    This investigation into what went wrong and the lessons that can be learned, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson CBE, included a series of public meetings in areas worst hit by the disease.

    But the questioning of government witnesses was in private.

    Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett will make a statement to the Commons at 1530 BST, after which the report will be made public.

    Army support

    The Anderson report will particularly criticise the government for failing to use the military in the worst affected areas in Cumbria and Devon until four weeks after the first confirmed case, says the Times.

    This was despite the fact that the previous official inquiry report into the 1967 outbreak recommended the immediate call-up of the army.

    It is anticipated that the report will also highlight on the inadequacy of the contingency plan in place at the outbreak's onset in February last year.

    This was based on there being 10 infected premises when there were at least 57 before diagnosis.

    This had risen to more than 2,000 by the time the last case was confirmed in September.

    Public inquiry

    The government has been criticised for stopping short of holding a full public inquiry into the outbreak.

    It did commission three reports into the handling of the disease.

    A scientific report by the Royal Society into the disease published last week recommended the use of emergency vaccination as an alternative to mass culling.

    Mass slaughter led to the loss of almost seven million animals and a compensation bill to farmers of 1.3bn.

    But former Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told an EU inquiry farmers had been against vaccination and there had not been enough doses of vaccine.

    The first of the three inquiries into the disease - the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, chaired by Sir Don Curry, reported its findings in January.

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    See also:

    16 Jul 02 | N Ireland
    16 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
    16 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
    16 Jul 02 | UK
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