Disease policy based on mythology

26 March 2001

Disease policy ‘based on mythology’

By Donald MacPhail

MINISTERS are basing foot-and-mouth policy on Ministry of Agriculture mythology rather than hard calculations, claims a back-bench Labour MP.

Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, spoke out after the Treasury admitted that it could not give comparative costs of different strategies to tackle the disease.

Nor could Treasury officials provide Mr Flynn with information on the estimated final cost of the impact of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The MP, who was previously branded “insensitive” over comments on farming suicides, said he was staggered that no figures were available.

Over the weekend MAFF announced a dramatic intensification of its slaughter policy — the tactic used to quell the 1967 outbreak.

“It seems extraordinary to base this enormous enterprise on the mythology of MAFFs past rather than profits and losses on the balance sheet,” said Mr Flynn.

Mr Flynn is urging ministers to calculate whether vaccination or allowing the disease to become endemic would make better economic sense.

Even if the UK regains its disease-free status, exports will be minimal as overseas reports on foot-and-mouth make references to BSE, claims Mr Flynn.

Mass vaccination or letting the disease become endemic would make the country less vulnerable to any deliberate reintroduction, argues the MP.

Mr Flynn had asked what it would cost to allow foot-and-mouth disease to become endemic, and the estimated cost of the outbreak to date.

In a holding written answer, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Smith said all efforts were being made to eradicate foot-and-mouth.

“It is not possible at this stage to make a robust assessment of the economic impact,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Flynn plans to submit follow-on questions asking for costs on the various options available on Monday (26 March).

More than 600 cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed in the UK. Some 388,000 animals have been slaughtered and 227,000 await culling.

Last year, Mr Flynn accused the farming lobby of peddling a myth that more farmers have taken their lives as a result of the general crisis in agriculture.

MP to query foot-and-mouth policy, FWi, 14 March, 2001

Farm suicides are a myth, says MP, FWi, 22 March, 2000

Insensitive MP in farm suicide claim, FWi, 04 February, 2000

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

See more