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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 12:41 GMT
Chief vet faces toughest role yet
Fred Landeg
Fred Landeg's major task will be to restore trust in the poultry industry
After less than a week in the job, the UK's top vet already finds himself facing one of the biggest challenges of his career.

Fred Landeg took over as the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture's acting chief veterinary officer last Friday.

Two days later word began to trickle into his department of a possible bird-flu epidemic near at a farm on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

By Tuesday, the outbreak had been confirmed as H5N1 - the most deadly strain - by which time his department had already swung into action.

Exclusion zones were declared, thousands of birds were culled, and strict restrictions on the movement of poultry were declared across the region.

He has an immense practical understanding of animal health at farm level, he is very experienced in epizootic disease control - both delivery and policy - and is very personable
David Catlow, past president of the British Veterinary Association

Mr Landeg himself embarked on a punishing round of media interviews.

His job? To explain why the restrictions were necessary; to give some background on how the disease might have spread; and most importantly to reassure the public his officers had the situation under control.

Luckily for the 59-year-old former livestock vet he had been down this road before.

Leading role

Last February, as Head of Defra's Veterinary Exotic Diseases Division, he played a leading role during the last major outbreak of avian flu at a Bernard Matthews turkey farm.

His department won plaudits for the swift and effective response way it handled the situation.

"That particular outbreak was handled and put to bed very quickly," says Jonathan Long, who covered the story as livestock editor for Farmers Weekly.

"Defra vets moved quickly; they put in place existing contingency plans and it all worked - simple as that."

It added to Mr Landeg's growing reputation as an efficient trouble-shooter, and followed his role during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, when he was given the temporary post of Assistant Chief Veterinary Officer.

Shortly after the Bernard Matthews outbreak was contained this year he was rewarded with promotion as deputy to Defra's then chief vet Debby Reynolds.

Experience

Married with three sons, Mr Landeg will bring to his current role years of experience as a state veterinary officer.

Although he spent a short period at the start of his career in private practice, since 1975 he has worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, and then its replacement Defra.

He has held a variety of posts within the ministry, working as a field veterinary officer in Essex, and a senior ministry vet in both Preston and Reading. He has a particular interest in exotic veterinary diseases.

Fellow vets speak highly of his experience and knowledge.

David Catlow, former president of the British Veterinary Association said: "I have personally known Fred for much of his professional career and can confirm that he is highly thought of by his peers."

"He has an immense practical understanding of animal health at farm level, is very experienced in epizootic disease control - both delivery and policy - and is very personable."

Mr Landeg will need all these qualities and more to reassure those have most to lose from the current bird-flu outbreak - Britain's poultry industry.



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