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Programme highlights Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Is the Government still getting it wrong in the war on foot and mouth?
Hundreds of thousands of animals await slaughter
Hundreds of thousands of animals await slaughter
The prospects of a programme of vaccination as part of the battle against foot and mouth receded this morning.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said merely that it was an option and one that need not be pursued for the time being because the existing policy is starting to bite.

That tentative confidence comes in part from the latest report from the Government's Chief Scientist, Professor David King - who briefed Tony Blair this morning.

Twelve days ago Professor King's gloomy predictions caused widespread concern. But today, it's thought, he was somewhat more optimistic.

It's crazy

However, in the past 24 hours, the number of new cases has risen 45 compared to 40 over the previous 24 hours.

Could vaccination have cut the killings?
Could vaccination have cut the killings?

Today's decision - if that's what it is - is a further snub to the EU experts who drew up a detailed plan for dealing with widescale foot and mouth outbreaks through vaccination.

Dr Simon Barteling, a Dutch virologist, was one of the authors of that report and he was very surprised at today's news.

"I don't understand it at all. I think it's a crazy point of view," he said.

"Vaccinations can eradicate the disease... But this decision will mean that England will be in the grip of the disease for a long period."

Anti-science and unbelievable

The former publisher - and organic farmer - Peter Kindersley was equally dismayed.

The case for vaccination is clear, says Peter Kindersley
The case for vaccination is clear, says Peter Kindersley

He had begun legal action against the Government in support of vaccination, but then suspended it because he believed policy was moving his way.

"This is the most anti-science decision that you can possibly make. Tony Blair agreed that there were no problems with vaccination and then he does this.

"It is unbelievable," he said, confirming he will now revive his legal challenge.

Slow and cumbersome

With or without vaccination, the damage being done to business in rural areas is relentless.

Businesses are hard-hit by the rural restrictions
Businesses are hard-hit by the rural restrictions

Some financial concessions have been offered, but those in charge of administering this relief are growing increasingly anxious about the implications.

Jack Jones, the director of Finance at South Lakeland District Council, said the main concern was that central Government refused to fully finance the aid.

"The balance has to be met by individual councils and the amounts involved are large, such that some councils can't afford them," he said.

"It's also a slow and cumbersome process... It's nowhere near the prompt help we would expect from Government."

Worrying

The Shadow Agriculture spokesman, Tim Yeo, agreed that the handling of the scheme was worrying.

Tim Yeo MP:
Tim Yeo MP: "Financial aid should be available immediately"

"Help that has been announced should be made available immediately. And the Government's contingency fund is where all this money should come from."

The Environment Minister Michael Meacher defended the involvement of councils in part-funding up to 5 per cent of the aid.

Look again

He said it gave them ownership of the scheme.

Environment minister Michael Meacher
"Rapid relief to those who need it"

"The whole point is to get rapid relief to those who need it and if it's impossible then we are prepared to look at it again.

"Businesses must provide the quantified evidence. We have an abundance of anecdotes but what the Treasury needs are the hard facts quantifying the level of need."

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Environment Minister Michael Meacher MP
Do we need a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth?
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