Saturday, August 04, 2007

Foot and Mouth: government over reacts whilst it does not do enough!

One of the interesting things about government is that there is always someone to say you should have done it another way.

According to reports there has been an outbreak of foot and mouth on a farm in Surrey.

The government has reacted by banning the movement of any cattle except those on its licensing scheme.

Whilst I have not looked in detail at the licensing scheme, this seems the right thing to do at this stage.

Gordon Brown and Hilary Benn have both canceled their holidays, which whilst politically a good move is a bot of an over reaction and very harsh on their families. I do not know the ages of Hilary's children, but Gordon's are young and these times are important.

However, this is either one hell of an over reaction, or it is a bit late. In the case of foot and mouth there probably is not much middle ground.

The outbreak is on a farm with 60 cows. With a bit of luck, it is a small dairy heard, which means that there is not much movement of animals to or from it. If that is the case, then come the end of next week, the "crisis" will be over. However if the farm has traded cattle a lot, then firstly it could have got the infection from somewhere else, and it is spreading elsewhere, or, it still could be spreading elsewhere.

Obviously DEFRA will be looking to see how this farm got foot and mouth as it is not native to this country. It came from somewhere. The same overseas source could well have infected several farms. We just don't know, though there is this story of fear from the Guardian in 2003, about bio terrorists and foot and mouth.

What needs to happen now is that the movement restrictions need to be kept in place. If the out break spreads then the army needs to be called in, sooner rather than later, even though we know they are over stretched. Mass culling needs to happen with infected cattle as soon as possible.

One thing is clear, that the government needs to act swiftly, and be prepared to do the unthinkable. (Vaccinate for example).


lady macleod said...

If there is a vaccination, why isn't it being used? If there is an infection in Surrey it would be 'closing the barn door after the cows are out' to quote the Americans but the question remains, Why wasn't it done before the infection could take hold, considering the effects of the disease last run. If it is from an 'imported' stock, what measures have been taken to check and quarantine if necessary?

Benedict White said...

The problem with vaccines is that they may mask carriers, making the produce impossible to sell to Foot and mouth free countries.