Opinion : 10/12/04

The foot-and-mouth tragedy is a festering boil on the backside of this government that refuses to fade.

The latest outburst, following FW’s revelations this year linking the outbreak of F&M to government negligence, concerns a new £2bn legal action. The firm Class Law solicitors alleges the government was guilty of gross negligence in its handling of the F&M outbreak.

Acting on behalf of 2000 rural workers, including hoteliers, shopkeepers and farmers, the firm will argue that the government was negligent because it waited two days before banning livestock movements within Britain.

Those two fatal days contributed to the original spread of the disease which cost the economy an estimated £8bn, the loss of nearly 7m animals and untold misery for farmers and rural communities.

As part of its campaign, Class Law will seek the full disclosure of official documents in the High Court next month.

Farmers Weekly wishes all those who are backing this legal action every success. As farmers know well, there was something rotten about the way MAFF/DEFRA and the higher echelons of government mismanaged the disease throughout the 2001 outbreak.

Three years later, denied the public inquiry that FW and others campaigned for, key questions still remain unanswered.

Meanwhile, those who suffered without compensation, including farmers whose businesses were strangled by form D notices and the swill feeders who were put out of business overnight, deserve justice – even if it delivered four years too late.

Government ministers should know F&M will not go away until all the industry’s questions are answered and recompense is made to those who deserve it.

Ministers must lance the boil or tolerate the painful consequences for years to come.