4 March 2001
Papers question zero tolerance measures
By FWI staff
SUPPORT for zero-tolerance measures to halt the outbreak of foot-and-mouth is on the wane in a number of Sunday newspapers.
The outbreak is continuing to spread across the UK with the number of confirmed cases rising to 56, and there are suspected cases in Belgium and France.
But several papers question the wisdom of slaughtering thousands of animals and closing off tracts of the countryside, arguing that most livestock would recover within weeks.
The front page headline in The Independent on Sunday describes the foot-and-mouth as “The plague that never was.”
It says foot-and-mouth is an economic disease and contrasts the swift response to the crisis from the Ministry of Agriculture to its slow reaction to BSE.
“It cares little for human health,” writes Geoffrey Lean. “It is not even particularly bothered about sick animals.
“What gets it excited and spurs it to emergency action is a threat to the profitability of agribusiness.”
Over a silhouetted picture of burning cattle carcasses The Sunday Times asks: “Is this really necessary?”
Vet Abigail Woods, who is researching foot-and-mouth, told the newspaper that in the modern world of rapid transport the economies of slaughter and burn may no longer be the same.
This is particularly true if more effective vaccines are developed, she argues.
But simply living with the disease would be impractical in the global market, Ms Woods told Scotland on Sunday.
In its editorial the newspaper calls for a new commission to raise the awkward questions surrounding the slaughter “which are being wilfully ignored”.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Timesreports that meat from countries infected with foot-and-mouth is coming into Britain.
Namibia, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina have suffered outbreaks in the past 12 months.
The newspaper asks why the “kill to cure” policy is not matched by an equally determined programme to stop animal diseases reaching Britain.
Scotland on Sunday says ministers failed to heed warnings from the Phillips BSE inquiry just four months before the outbreak to tighten up surveillance of farms.
And it reports that ministers plan to close a veterinary investigation centre at Thurso, at a time when the importance of regional animal health offices is being realised.
The Observer focuses on Government plans to introduce a legally enforceable code demanding that supermarkets have a fairer relationship with farmers.
In an editorial, the News of the World warns of the impact of the crisis on farmers and welcomes the plan for the code.
“We either pay a few pence more for our meat or face the risk of more slaughter and suffering in our countryside,” it argues.
The Daily Express reports that Special Branch and MI5 officers are monitoring animal rights extremists to thwart any attempts to deliberately to spread the disease.