Virus fight inadequate, inquiry told

9 October 2001

Virus fight inadequate, inquiry told

By FWi staff

THE public inquiry into Devons foot-and-mouth crisis has heard how the disease affected one of the countys biggest farming estates.

John Varley, director of Clinton Devon Estates, told inquiry officials that the government reacted poorly to the epidemic.

The epidemic would have been better handled had Whitehall officials been given better information regarding the outbreak in Devon, he said.

“Our feeling was that government was applying a top-down process – you know, one-size-fits-all, take it or leave it.”

Representatives from other rural businesses and the tourist industry were due to give evidence at County Hall, Exeter, on Tuesday (9 October).

Colin Lomax, acting head of Economic Development at Devon County Council, was set to assess the impact of the crisis on the local economy.

The National Trust was expected to reveal how the crisis closed tourist attractions and led to a reduction in rental income from farm tenants.

John Fowler, chairman of Fowler Holidays, was due to reveal how his business lost bookings after the media said the south-west was “closed”.

South-West Tourism chief executive Malcolm Bell said tourists spend about 2.3 billion a year in the region – half the business in some areas.

The inquiry has already heard claims that three out of 10 farmers are likely to leave the industry following the foot-and-mouth crisis.

David Hill, chairman of Devon National Farmers Union, issued the warning of the exodus after highlighting government errors.

During his evidence, Mr Hill attacked the “disastrous” contiguous cull policy dreamt up by “mathematicians and statisticians”.

The slaughter was, “computerised carnage which caused extreme distress. It was a disaster from start to finish.

“Command at a national level was abysmal. There was no feeling of a well-oiled machine when the outbreak occurred – completely the reverse.

“Although the Government said the outbreak was under control, it quite patently was not.”

The hearing, which has received about 400 detailed submissions, is being broadcast over the Internet. About 50 witnesses will give evidence.

A report from the inquiry will be submitted to the governments Policy Commission on the Future of Farming later this year.


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