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Country News - 2003

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Reluctant welcome for DEFRA slap in the face

Wednesday 18 June 2003

DESPITE the fact that it delivers a humiliating slap in the face to DEFRA, a European Commission decision to take over the handling of any future foot and mouth outbreak in Britain has received a reluctant welcome by UK landowners.

"Lack of action by UK Government has obviously frustrated the European Commission as much as our farmers," says Douglas Chalmers, North West Regional Director of the CLA, "but a least we have some direction now".

Mr Chalmers was referring to this week's announcement by the EU's Council of Agriculture Ministers that future FMD outbreaks would be tackled by Brussels and not the British government

This is a resounding vote of no confidence in DEFRA, which was created after the scrapping of the old Ministry of Agriculture because of the shambles it created when FMD struck some 30 months ago. For a farming body to welcome such interference from Brussels is virtually unique.

The EU will have the power to insist on emergency vaccination, a concept, says Mr Chalmers, "which our own Government decided it would not use in 2001".

He added: "If DEFRA bear increasingly less responsibility for what might happen in future outbreaks, how will individuals and organisations be able to input their knowledge and opinions?

"At least in a future outbreak the decision on emergency vaccination will be made, but we must be sure that local knowledge and veterinary advice are part of the decision making process. These valuable resources were sadly ignored last time, and this omission contributed to many of the wrong decisions being made."


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