13 July 2001


No one could have predicted the appalling tragedy of foot-and-mouth. No one could have foretold the lost lives, ruined businesses and slaughtered livestock burnt on pyres across the country.

But there is something that we can salvage from the ashes. First, a thorough understanding of how this disease gained such a devastating stranglehold.

Second, a clear analysis of whether the governments handling of the crisis, particularly its cull policy, mitigated, or exacerbated, the scale of the tragedy.

Third, whether a policy of vaccination could have protected farming businesses in addition to perhaps millions of healthy stock.

Fourth, how a recovery programme can restore British farming, if not to its former position, then to a healthy engine of growth for the rural economy.

Only one initiative can accomplish all those objectives. That is a full, public inquiry into F&M. Nothing less would help to rebuild the trust between rural communities and government. Nothing less would provide consolation to those who have lost everything, even loved ones, to the tragedy that is F&M. Nothing less could hope to make sense of the terrible carnage, almost of biblical proportions, that the British countryside has suffered.

Reject the siren voices which suggest an independent inquiry would be sufficient. It would not. It would certainly be cheaper and quicker. But there is no guarantee its conduct, or its full conclusions would be open to public scrutiny.

Why rush and why scrimp when a full public inquiry could provide comprehensive answers to questions on everyones lips? Neither need it take an age to report; interim findings could be made available within a short space of time.

If we dont take this unique opportunity to learn the lessons of history, are we not destined to repeat that history? Who wants to see that?

For all our sakes, lets say a resounding Yes to a public inquiry. Find out how you can add your voice to our campaign on page 16.

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