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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Foot-and-mouth: Do you want a public inquiry?
The government has promised three independent inquiries into the foot-and-mouth crisis.
But it has rejected calls for a full public inquiry, saying that this would be too expensive and would take too long.
The chairman of one of the three investigations into the epidemic, defended the decision not to hold the inquiry in public.
Dr Iain Anderson denied that his findings would be compromised because evidence would be gathered behind closed doors.
Should there be a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth epidemic?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
There needs to be an inquiry all right. Especially to find out what person in the Government decided to insist that "trekkers" have a right to trespass and hike through farms. Any high school agriculture student in the US knows that uncontrolled access to stock and plants is a sure way to spread diseases and cause epidemics.
Reduce compensation to market value - or better still treat farmers like other industries - NO compensation, then see how quickly foot-and mouth will disappear!
This might be controversial, but I really believe the foot-and-mouth epidemic was started deliberately by the authorities themselves in order to decimate British farming and open it up to the multinational food giants. It would really benefit these companies' plans for GM-foods in Britain, if they controlled the entire food chain. Alas, I fear a public enquiry will only cover up the truth. There's already been enough black propaganda (re Welsh hill farmers cheating to get compensation) from the Government to indicate that something is afoot. The Government's crazy policy on slaughtering hundreds of thousands of healthy animals already demonstrates that this is no hair-brained conspiracy theory, but rather that there definitely is an hidden agenda to decimate the British livestock industry.
Although I believe there should be an enquiry
I wonder whether it would do any good. Just
another white wash - after all the Government
stated that the crisis was over, weeks ago and I
have yet to see any retraction of that
statement. All they are doing is arguing over
the money situation. They are having investigations
but only with their own people looking into it.
So it is obvious which way the blame will be put.
Never mind years of work being wiped out by panic
at government level. If a public enquiry is to be
held it must be by independent people, NOT
If its not a public enquiry then why bother?
It's obvious that the Government is trying to prevent the public from finding out what a hash they made of it.
Let the public know the full extent of over-inflated compensation, let the public know the full extent of animals sent on welfare, (the silent exodus) thousands of animals taken to land fills and rendering every day. Let the public know how these contractors have ripped off the Government, with heavy plant charged for and never used. Let the people know how valuers have ripped off the Government with their over inflated values, prices never witnessed in the market place. Let the public know how farmers have dragged their feet cleaning up their own farms because the money is so good £17 per hour! Let the Government explain to the taxpayers how they have allowed all of this to happen. These are some of the reasons why there must be a full public enquiry.
No amount of talking will ever convince arrogant humans that they cannot control the natural world. Without radical changes to our lifestyles and attitudes toward the environment, count on this episode happening again and again.
Yes, we should have a truly public enquiry. By refusing to have one, Tony Blair leaves himself very open to the accusation that he has something to hide. If we had the facts presented openly, without being "spun" into propaganda against British agriculture, the country might be able to make up its own mind about the whole affair. In doing so they could also consider the worth of farmers in today's society. This sticker was seen in Vermont USA 10 years ago - DON'T COMPLAIN ABOUT FARMERS WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL.
Tony Blair has some cheek to lecture Europe on how to run its economic system considering the mess he has created with the foot-and-mouth debacle.
It was rumoured in Ireland, in March that the British Government was trying to buy railway sleepers (to burn infected livestock) in January this year! This was two months before the outbreak.
Three major mistakes were made
1. Burning carcases (which may have spread infection.)
2. Opening footpaths far too soon.
3. Not bringing in the army sooner.
As an outside observer, I have come to the conclusion that some British people would rather live in squalor than pay for decent services.
Have you noticed that Tony Blair prefers to take three questions at a time at public meetings. This enables him to mix and disguise the real issues and commit himself to none of them. Presumably the preference of three enquiries is to enable Tony to do the same.
A public inquiry is absolutely essential
to ensure that the unnecessary and
ineffective contiguous culling policy
is scientifically discredited. Future policies
must involve vaccination and those in charge
of control of any future outbreak must take account
of ALL available scientific evidence.
I am a veterinary epidemiologist.
I would like a public enquiry, a fact-finding mission, not a witch-hunt. I want to know how a farm in a remote part of England became infected and how the subsequent spread came about. The ways of controlling such a spread can only be worked out in hindsight because there are so many opinions at the time and each one is supposed to be the right one. There cannot be a single person or a single institution or a government blamed.
Great Britain is not an island - funny as it sounds - because we are also bound by rules made in the EU. These rules bias eventual decisions made by our own Ministries. What we do is also
influenced by prejudice, envy and misinformation on the part of many at home and abroad. I was always led to believe that keeping herds out in the fields (unlike here in Germany where many spend their lives in very sanitary sheds) was better for a happy cow. That pigs living out in their little huts and eating swill as they have done over generations are better off than those who never really see daylight. And yet now we are the dirty farmers and we should look to those wonderful farmers in Europe! What is right? Let an enquiry find that out. Then perhaps some guidelines can be made which also big supermarket buyers will be forced to take notice of. Because, I do believe, there lies the crunch - prices!
Blair will never allow a public enquiry into foot-and-mouth disease unless his cronies can think of a way to spin the blame on to the Tories. A full, open enquiry would only reveal how utterly inept Blair's buddies have been in handling the whole thing. And we, the public, could never be allowed to see anything that took the smug, Teflon-coated, nothing-ever-sticks-to-me grin off Tony's face, could we?
Mr Blair took personal charge of foot-and-mouth in a public way which helped him in his public image, now let him try explaining where he went wrong!!!
It really is amazing that the potential cost and time of a public inquiry is the determining factor in Mr Blair's decision not to hold one.
Will the logic of this cop-out - "too expensive mate; takes too long" - also be applied to long running criminal trials in future? I doubt it.
Perhaps the extra revenue from the new speed cameras could be used to pay for a real enquiry. I doubt that will happen either though.
No - let's not waste anymore money - only ones to benefit from a public enquiry will be the media as the hype all the discussions and findings
"Secrecy and Spin" have become the main tools of this Government. It takes courage to have a full public enquiry.
I am a Veterinary Surgeon and am not at all happy with the way in which the Government is handling the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Increasingly strongly I feel that we need a single independent public enquiry into all aspects of the disease in the future, as well as a radical re-appraisal of the present policies now.
Too expensive? How can the Government come out and say a full public inquiry will be too expensive? After all the money it is throwing into the farmers' coffers this is a bit rich! Let's have an inquiry not only into the crisis, but also into the distribution of compensation to the farmers. Such an inquiry may well have a few of our country folks sweating!
Lord Haskins says that British Farmers should be more like French farmers. Has he forgotten that most of the concessions the French farmer has got were obtained by blockading motorways and burning cargos of British meat? Is this what he wants?
Like many non-farmers, I don't understand why farmers are unique in being excluded from the consequences of a downturn in the demand for their product. No-one else has a job for life and a home for life, protected from the consequences of being part of a market economy. No-one else can assume that their children will inherit their job or property. If an enquiry helps the nation decide whether we want to go on supporting farmers in the way it does then let's have one.
I think mistakes were made outside this country which caused our rural chaos. Giant factory farms like those in USA and Canada cannot be made viable here. We are a small island, we could be self-sufficient and know exactly what we are eating. So let's have an enquiry and find out some truths behind FMD.
No, we don't need an inquiry into foot and mouth, but we do need an inquiry into why millions of pounds of tax-payers' money is now being used to line the pockets of greedy farmers and turning them into millionaires overnight. Why couldn't that money go into the NHS?
Yes, let's have a public enquiry - not a governmental witch-hunt. I am tired of reading about how Blair did this or didn't do that. How about looking at standards closer to the root cause i.e. the farmers and their unsafe working methods. Let's dig deeper into the spread of the disease and the numbers of farmers deliberately breaking the transit bans. By all means apportion blame, but not unreservedly at the Government.
Ed Smith, USA
Never mind a public enquiry.
We need a Royal Commission into the whole of the food industry and it's practices.
Whatever happened to pledges on Freedom of Information? A single public enquiry has to be cheaper than multiple enquiries held shrouded in secrecy. Unless there is something the Government already knows about and wants to hide, what's the problem?
Foot and mouth is an economic tragedy, but little attention has been paid to the fundamental biological issue behind it, which unfortunately clashes with our economic need for healthy livestock. The virus, much like the common cold, evolved over millennia to be highly successful and easily spread precisely because it does not (directly) kill its hosts. Today, however, no one can nurse a million sick animals back to health and we are forced to kill the hosts. Governments should stop pointing fingers and consider the scientific facts first instead of fretting over political issues. Otherwise we may ultimately be fighting a losing battle.
Michael Berwyn-Jones, England
This outbreak is the worst the UK has ever suffered. If nothing else, common-sense dictates that we should have a public enquiry so we can determine what went wrong and learn from out mistakes to ensure it can't happen again.
Only a public enquiry can give the answers to these questions, and if it manages to stop a disaster like this from ever happening again on such a scale, then the cost of it would be worth every penny.
Let's have a public enquiry. Then we can see how the farmers and their union kept changing their tune during the outbreak, and discover the true cost of compensating an industry that is already over subsidised, for a problem that would never have received financial help had it been in any other industry. Perhaps we'll also find out how many farmers bothered to take out insurance to cover this eventuality as well.
Given the billions of pounds that the F&M fiasco has already cost I would have thought that a little more on a proper public enquiry was neither hear nor there.
Of course the Government do not want a public inquiry - it would show just how abominably the whole affair was handled and stop them laying the entire blame at the door of Britain's farmers.
It is essential that all enquiries, whether one or three, should be held in public and that they should be able to requisition government documents and to compel witnesses to give evidence. The argument that this would take as long, and be as expensive as the BSE enquiry is wrong. In the latter case, there was little known about the nature or origins of BSE and the investigation attempted to gather information stretching back for many years.
Never mind FMD, I want a full inquiry into subsidies paid to farmers. The public has a right to know exactly how much of our tax is going to farmers in subsidies, tax exemption (farmers don't pay death duty and receive very cheap tax-free red diesel) and the massive compensation they get when they mess up. This is our money so give us the full facts. The British public has a right to know.
Yes there most certainly should be a public enquiry! What needs to come out are the motive behind the Government's actions (or in-actions). This is not one that would provide Tony Blair with any plausible deniability since he was the one in the driving seat.
I believe there should be a single public enquiry. All the facts of the case should be placed in the public domain for examination.
I think there definitely should be an enquiry. If the government had introduced vaccinations at the start the whole thing would be over by now. The farmers could have been compensated for loss of exports at a fraction of the costs of compensation, loss of trade to the tourist industry etc.
Yet another smoke-screen from this 'government'. Divide and rule becomes divide and fool with three inquiries, all government appointed.
How can such a disaster as the foot-and-mouth outbreak not warrant a full public enquiry considering the number of industries (tourism, agriculture, rural businesses) that have suffered because of it? I feel British farmers are the victims of cheap food imports and wonder when the Government will begin to show loyalty to the high quality produce of UK agriculture. The refusal of a public enquiry indicates there is something to hide. Surely the endless victims of foot-and-mouth have a right to a full public enquiry and explanation!
So what's 'New' Labour going to do? Leave it till the next shower of Tories get in and engage in expensive finger-pointing in the hope that those of us (so far) without CJD and some semblance of memory will somehow forget how they 'revealed all' about BSE? Another plague on all their houses.
David Closter, Devon, UK
There is no doubt that this entire disaster has been mismanaged from the start. It has cost countless millions of public pounds so far and the costs are rising. There have been suggestions that farmers have infected their own livestock to make fraudulent compensation claims. Of course there should be a public enquiry. If the government are blameless, they will welcome it.
Blair would never have a public inquiry, as he only wants the public to know his spin version of the facts.
Yvonne Antrobus, England
That's funny coming from a government whose own policy into foot-and- mouth has been too expensive and taken too long. Basically the government made a complete mess of the whole situation and a public enquiry is needed to highlight how incompetent this government has been and will continue to be.
I think there should be an investigation into the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Although I am by no means an expert, I have been concerned about the severity of the outbreak in England as opposed to other countries. I have been wondering if this was an act of terrorism.
I thought the target of the inquiry was to find out all information about FMD. Having 3 inquiries, to me, sounds like the privatisation of the railways. Create multiple bodies, each doing 'different' things, duplication of work and no communication between departments.
F&M: A public inquiry?
09 Aug 01 | UK
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