NFU vilified for blocking vaccination

7 September 2001

NFU vilified for blocking vaccination

By FWi staff

FARMERS are vilified in a comment piece in The Times for their role in blocking government plans to vaccinate against foot-and-mouth disease.

Senior Whitehall officials are screaming for vaccination, while vets across the country are protesting at the needless slaughter, writes Simon Jenkins.

But it is farmers, led by National Farmers Union president Ben Gill, who are behind government indecision that has stifled the policy since April, he adds

The governments compensation policy produced a reverse incentive for farmers to have animals slaughtered under the disease cull.

The lack of control of compensation payments in England and Wales led to lucky farmers winning up to three times market value for their animals.

It needed only one dishonest sheep dealer to exploit this incentive for infectivity to run wild. It did.

In parts of the country I visited this summer, it paid to be culled. Two billion pounds of new public money were swilling around the countryside.

The slaughter policy was indefensible in terms of two million healthy animals which were killed and the cost to the treasury and businesses, writes Mr Jenkins.

Yet, he claims, NFU leader Mr Gill succeeded in browbeating government vets into giving their loyalty to the industry rather than animals.

Even Tony Blair, a control freak with no control, was terrified of Mr Gill. His industry is used to getting its way, Mr Jenkins writes.

When government chief scientist David King went to Cumbria last spring to encourage farmers to accept vaccination, he was mauled, he adds.

Farmers preferred the cheques in their pockets to a different policy that might cost them dear, writes Mr Jenkins.

Britain may yet vaccinate if the current outbreak in the north of England is not over by the end of October, he predicts.

But the government will have to stuff Ben Gills mouth with money first.


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