3 August 2001

NOTANGIBLEEVIDENCETOBACKSLUROFDISEASEDELIBERATESPREADING

Facing the trauma of foot-and-mouth is bad enough. Answering allegations that many farmers are deliberately spreading the disease in order to claim compensation payment is an intolerable slur on the embattled British livestock industry.

Never has one single piece of hard evidence been presented to support such pernicious allegations against farmers.

The temptation some farmers face is as obvious as it is understandable. Many producers who have suffered movement restrictions for months have watched their businesses and incomes wither to nothing. Faced with life in limbo some could find it difficult to resist a simple solution that would feed their families. But its difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any farmers taking that dangerous route. Who could purposely destroy a lifetimes stock work and endanger not just his neighbours farms but the local economy and community?

No. For the source of such rumours we need to look elsewhere. In the time-honoured style of all detective work it pays to ask: Who has most to gain from discrediting the farming industry? Although we have no evidence that any group or individual has maliciously spread false rumours about a trade in F&M, its easy to conceive a list of likely candidates.

How convenient it is for some in government to blame farmers for perpetuating a disease it promised was well under control in early May. Tabloid journalists too have a long, dishonourable record of using dirty tricks to blacken the name of their victims. And lets not forget that one newspaper recently published an article entitled "Why farmers are scum". Then there are the extreme anti-farming organisations which would love to discredit the industry. Next is the criminal community which is never slow to spot a scam at someone elses expense.

Whatever the truth, we should not allow rumours to divert attention from the nations top priority. That must be to eradicate F&M for once and for all.