11 December 2000
MPs urged to quiz MAFF over pigs
by Alistair Driver
MPs have been asked to investigate the Ministry of Agricultures handling of the swine fever crisis after stinging criticism from the pig industry.
The National Pig Association (NPA) said the ministry was too slow to act and communicate, and was not aggressive enough in efforts to control the disease.
An NPA submission to a committee inquiry into the pig industry said farmers were not satisfied that [MAFFs] response was as rapid as it might have been.
There should be a thorough government review of MAFFs performance, it told the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee on Monday (11 Dec).
The association highlighted its failure to use the internet effectively to update farmers on the rapidly changing situation and the spread of swine fever.
Since the crisis began last August, the NPA website has frequently published government advice days ahead of recommendations on the MAFF website.
It also claimed that MAFF was not aggressive enough in its efforts to control the outbreak. The NPA wanted all pigs within 3km of infected farms killed.
“The request was denied on the grounds that such aggression was not necessary, a level of confidence that has proven to be misplaced,” MPs were told.
“The result was increased losses for pig producers, and increased cost to the
government.” Over 100,000 pigs have been slaughtered because of the disease.
Government inaction on import controls of contaminated meat has left UK pig
producers unreasonably exposed to a repeat outbreak, the NPA said.
The committee inquiry is also examining the pig industry restructuring scheme, which was finally launched last week, 10 months after it was announced.
Among the NPA team giving oral evidence was James Black, who has just
been elected to succeed John Godfrey as NPA chairman.