Farming Today for December 16 2004
Synopsis from Farming Today websiteThe Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to launch a fresh inquiry into the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak because of a video they say may amount to new evidence.
The video, shot by trading standards officers, shows conditions on Bobby Waugh's farm in Northumberland where the outbreak's believed to have started. It was taken the day after foot and mouth was confirmed in his pigs. The video wasn't sent to the inquiry led by Dr Iain Anderson which focussed on lessons to be learnt.
The Tories' farming spokesman, James Paice, tells the programme it could help us understand how the outbreak started. But the Animal Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw, says the video contains nothing significant.
transcript of part of the programme...The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to launch a fresh inquiry into the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak because of a video that they say may contain new evidence. Shot by Trading Standards officers, it shows conditions on Bobby Waugh's farm in Northumberland where the outbreak is believed to have started.
It was taken the day after foot and mouth was confirmed in his pigs. The video wasn't sent to the Inquiry led by Dr Iain Anderson which focussed on Lessons to be Learned.
In a moment we'll hear from the Animal Health Minister, who says it shows nothing new.
But first the Tories' farming spokesman, James Paice, believes it may well be significant.
JP - "Most people didn't know about this video until it emerged a couple of months ago and all the questioning of Ministers have served to increase the confusion about it rather than resolve it. The Minister, Ben Bradshaw, produced a letter to me, a statement in the House of Commons, on Monday which basically catalogues a series of errors and confusion; bits that DEFRA didn't know what other bits of DEFRA did know what they were doing, whether they had copies of the video or if they hadn't - so it raises the question as to why it wasn't presented to the Anderson Inquiry looking into Lessons to be Learned.
Most people who have seen that video believe that there is a picture of a dog pulling at what looks like a dead sheep or part of a dead sheep in a mound of decomposing material which raises the question which many people have asked as to how the disease got to Burnside Farm and it's no slight on Professor (sic) Anderson to say his report does not actually address how it got there other than saying it came in untreated swill. And all this video evidence now I think increases the need for an explanation from the Minister as to why the video was not given to the inquiry, who made that decision or was it actually never considered, was it an omission rather than a commission. And in the light of it to redouble our calls which we have been making for some time for there to be a proper public inquiry."
Well the Animal Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw, issued a statement denying that there has been any cover-up over this video. The video, he says, is inconclusive, it doesn't clearly show a dog tugging at a sheep's carcass, and anyway, the video was publicly aired at Bobby Waugh's court case.
JP - But not all the video was, only extracts, and the Minister himself says that Ministers - he refers to Elliott Morley and Lord Whitty - both saw extracts on the news. That's pretty irresponsible from the Minister for Animal Health. He appears not to have even seen it himself. He's working on what he's been told. I think that's irresponsible but I also know that most people who have seen that video take a very different view. But the key thing is that fundamental question that has never been asked - or answered properly - is how the disease got to Burnside Farm. Whether it came in untreated swill - which may be the case- but what effort was made to trace the source of that untreated swill, where it came from. The real issue is to make sure this disease does not come back and unless there's a real effort to get to the bottom of that we will never be sure that we an prevent it happening again.You believe this video should have been shown to the Anderson Inquiry. There isn't a single fact that we know about that has come out of the video though that would have changed the direction of the Anderson Inquiry.
We don't know anything conclusively, of course not, but if professor Anderson was not given all the evidence then how can you guarantee that his conclusions are those he would have come to if he had had all the evidence. And to me the fact that he wasn't shown a pretty significant piece of visual evidence, as opposed to receiving just written and verbal evidence - is quite damaging. I think he needs to be allowed to see that video, or a proper inquiry needs to see it so that we can actually get to the bottom of the fundamental issue which is how the disease got to Burnside Farm and more importantly how it got into England, bearing in mind that we should never have had any foodstuffs in this country from countries where that particular strain of foot and mouth is endemic.Well, joining us now is the Animal Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw. A significant piece of visual evidence, says James Paice, surely of great interest to anyone inquiring either into the origins of the outbreak or the lessons we should learn from it.
BB - Yes, and shown widely as you said in your questioning at the time by the media at Bobby Waugh's trial. I have now seen this video and I've seen I think probably a different version from James Paice, a better version than the one he was shown by the pigswill campaigners, which was I understand rather grainy and I can't identify what was being pulled out and neither can the deputy chief vet or any the experts that have viewed it as well.There were only extracts seen in the media at the time. You say the video constitutes no new evidence but given the important to all of us of learning as much as we can about this outbreak and where it came from, why not ask Dr Anderson to make, to pass judgement on whether it is significant or not.
BB - Well we have and he said he doesn't wish to look at it. he doesn't think it does contain any evidence, any new evidence so it's not me saying this, it's the people who were there at the time who personally talked both to the vet Jim Dring and the other officials who were there at the time who gathered painstakingly the evidence on which Bobby Waugh was prosecuted for breaking the law and endangering the health of not only his own animals but the whole country and they say that that evidence they gathered was all given both to both Anderson and to the trial and that the video contains nothing new.The farm had been inspected and licenced only a month earlier by a government vet and the Conservatives suspect that the government's regulatory system may have been at fault here . Evidence which may or may not show that surely needs to be judged independently.
BB - Well, vets and animal health experts tell me that foot and mouth is a highly virulent disease that spreads very quickly and that pigs in particular deteriorate extremely fast and as came out at the time when not just the Anderson Inquiry but the other inquiries took place, the conclusion was that it was perfectly possible for the time between Jim Dring's visit in the January and his visit a month later for the pigs to have deteriorated to that extent shown not just in the film but in the evidence given both to Anderson and the Court case.
Both the Conservative and the Liberal Democrats argue that the video evidence together with the note taken form the government vet you mentioned, Jim Dring, who inspected Burnside Farm in which he wonders if he should have granted it a licence, both these things taken together justify a fresh inquiry. It is hard to argue against.
BB - Well it's not.There have been so many inquiries. Jim Dring made quite clear at the time that he was writing that memo with the benefit of hindsight. What did happen at Burnside Farm we know with the benefit of hindsight. He says as well in that.. in that.. in his memorandum that at the time in January he saw nothing amiss and he did a proper inspection. I don't think anyone is suggesting that he didn't.Finally and briefly, underlying this is a suspicion in some minds that infection may have been present elsewhere in the UK earlier than at Burnside Farm. Now is there any form of evidence - conclusive or not - that that was the case? Briefly if you can.
BB - No. And Anderson looked into this. James Paice was quite wrong to say that there had never been an epidemiological study. There was and Burnside Farm was the first outbreak and no sheep were found on Burnside Farm.ends