PRESSURE IS mounting on the government to carry out a new investigation of events leading up to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001.
The united call for a new inquiry has come from senior vets, peers and MPs who were left shocked and appalled after witnessing newly uncovered video footage of the pig unit at the centre of the disease outbreak.
Until the video was passed to FARMERS WEEKLY it had been gathering dust, its contents overlooked or ignored.
The footage was shot at Bobby Waugh‘s Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumbria, on Feb 24 2001 – four days into the crisis and just four weeks after the farm’s swill feeding licence was renewed by government agents.
The images show a unit that had been allowed to decline into a parlous state despite a number of visits to the farm carried out by government agents in the months leading up to the F&M outbreak.
Calls for an investigation are beginning to grow after FW organised a private showing of the video, shot by trading standards, to 30 invited MPs, peers, vets and farm industry representatives on Thurs (Oct 21).
They want to know just how government officials failed to take appropriate action.
After viewing the video one senior veterinary surgeon who has considerable experience of government work and waste food feeding legislation, said: “The footage I have seen shows images that are totally unacceptable from the perspective of waste feed control, hygiene and animal welfare.
“In my view, the system put in place to control these factors broke down.”
The Countess of Mar, a crossbencher in the Lords, asked whether legal advisers had seen the video.
“If it hasn‘t been shown yet, it should be,” said the Countess. “There‘s a very strong case for legal action here.”
One legal expert who is in no doubt that the video could prove vital if action was taken against the government is Chris Price, Country Land and Business Association solicitor.
“The video provides crucial evidence that the government through its agent – the vet Jim Dring – was negligent.”
A statement written by the vet in October 2001 which was uncovered by FW (News, March 5) read: “…at a time when illicit feeding practices were clearly in train, and had been for some time, I inspected this premises with a view to renewing the Waughs‘ Article 26 licence.
“Had this inspection been more rigorous than it was, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed only subject to radical revision of the Waughs‘ patently deficient feeding technique, then this awful 2001 F&M epidemic would never have come about.”
Mr Price said: “No-one wishes any ill on Mr Dring but as an agent of MAFF/DEFRA his actions bind the government to this negligence.
“Certificates for this farm to continue feeding should never have been issued. There appears that no proper investigation into the events has ever been carried out and this video seems to confirm it,” said Mr Price.
“THE VIDEO that formed the basis of calls for another foot-and-mouth disease inquiry last week, is not new evidence.
“It was first made public during Robert Waugh‘s trial in May 2002.
“Copies were distributed to both regional and national media after Mr Waugh‘s conviction and it was used in news coverage.
“A number of government officials have seen the video, including the deputy chief veterinary officer.
“It was taken by local authority officers a month after the last government inspection of the farm. At the time of our visit there was no evidence of disease on the farm nor was there evidence of illegal waste food feeding.
“The fact that conditions on the premises had deteriorated after the visit was the fault of Robert Waugh and he was successfully prosecuted for the offences he committed.
“DEFRA maintains that the origin of the 2001 F&M outbreaks was the unprocessed waste food fed to pigs on Burnside Farm.
“The Lessons to be Learned Inquiry, carried out by Dr Iain Anderson, supported this conclusion which was based on epidemiological investigation.
“The Origins of FMD report submitted by DEFRA to the inquiry was based on wide-ranging evidence and rigorous investigation and was published by Anderson.
“The government‘s handling of the outbreaks has been subject to two very thorough investigations.
“There is no new information in the video that was not available at the time and a further one day inquiry would serve no meaningful or useful purpose.”