9 August 2001
Foot-and-mouth inquiry: reaction

By FWi staff

FARMERS and rural interest groups have given a mixed reaction to the governments decision to launch an inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

National Farmers Union president Ben Gill said it was absolutely crucial for the inquiries to be seen as open and transparent by the farming industry.

“Farmers will want to help protect themselves from this kind of disaster again and they will expect Government to work with them on this.”

The three-pronged investigation will focus on the governments handling of the epidemic, a scientific review and a commission on the future of farming.

But the inquiry falls far short of the full public inquiry demanded by many British farmers who have seen millions of livestock slaughtered.

Many farmers leaders said the inquiry should be held in public.

National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said: “If it is not, it gives the impression that the government has something to hide.”

However he acknowledged that it was probably the right decision to split up the investigation, as a single inquiry would have been too broad.

But British Veterinary Association president David Tyson said: “You cannot expect a government in power to go too deeply and too openly into itself.”

“There will be public sessions and I do not think it needs to be a full public inquiry as long as people can talk freely without fear.”

“The important thing is that something is going to be done in a reasonably short space of time.”

National Pig Association chairman James Black said: “The most important thing is that lessons are learned whether it is a public inquiry or not.”

“But I am more concerned that any faults or issues raised and discovered must lead to actions to put them right.”

National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said “the myths and mystery” which have dogged the crisis must be uncovered.

Joyce DSilva, director of Compassion in World Farming, said she felt the inquiry should be “open at both ends” so people can go along and tell their story.

“If its not going to be held in public then that could be quite serious.”

She added: “I also hope its wide-ranging and includes the views of animal welfare groups like CIWF because we have been ignored so far.”