Britain under fire on foot-and-mouth

15 March 2001

Britain under fire on foot-and-mouth

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

EURO-MPs have attacked Britains handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Irish MEP Avril Doyle told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that there were “legitimate questions” to be answered by the UK authorities.

“Why is there such a difference in the veterinary responses of the UK and Ireland?” she asked during a special debate on Wednesday (14 March).

Football matches and conferences continue as normal in the UK but in Ireland, which remains disease-free, non-essential rural gatherings have stopped.

“We have brought the Irish community to a standstill,” said Ms Doyle.

French MEP Jean-Claude Martinez was more direct in his criticism, blaming the importation of 20,000 sheep for introducing “the British virus”.

With many of these animals going for ritual slaughter at the Muslim festival of Eid-el-Kabir, foot-and-mouth disease was bound to spread.

Cost-cutting was also to blame, said Mr Martinez.

“In the name of profitability, British trains are derailed, British cows are derailed and now British sheep are derailed.”

But Irish MEP Proinsias de Rossa, said: “It could have happened in any one of our countries, given the intensive subsidy-driven nature of European farming.”

European Union food safety commissioner David Byrne was also careful to avoid apportioning blame.

But he did praise France for its “very decisive action to isolate and destroy livestock potentially exposed to contaminated animals imported from the UK”.

Mr Byrne went on to condemn the import bans thrown up by countries such as the USA and Canada against EU meat and dairy products.

Firm action by EU countries had not received the recognition it deserved.

He confirmed that vaccination would only be used as a last resort, and he dismissed suggestions that intensification of agriculture was to blame.

The real reason for foot-and-mouth was illegal activity in the UK and the failure to enforce existing regulations.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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