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New evidence on FMD emerges

Source: FWi 05 March 2004 By Mike Stones and Stephen Howe

LEGAL ACTION over the government's failure to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 has moved closer after a leaked document was handed to FARMERS WEEKLY.

The document contained an admission by a government vet that, if he had made a more rigorous inspection of the farm where the outbreak started, then the F&M "epidemic would never have come about".

In his evidence to the Anderson Inquiry the vet, Jim Dring, admitted that he had carried out an inspection of Burnside Farm, Northumberland, 10 days before F&M was introduced.

Mr Dring, now a DEFRA vet, wrote: "... at a time when illicit feeding practices were clearly in train, and had been for some time, I inspected this (sic) premises with a view to renewing the Waughs' Article 26 licence."

"Had this inspection been more rigorous than it was, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed only subject to radical revision of the Waugh's patently deficient feeding technique, then this awful 2001 FMD epidemic would never have come about," he wrote.

Lynda Davies, national co-ordinator of the Association of Swill Users, said the admission would strengthen the case for legal action against MAFF/DEFRA.

"This shows us that MAFF/DEFRA bears a huge responsibility for the spread of F&M throughout the UK. Because of [Mr Dring's] inaccuracies, Britain suffered F&M."

Speaking to FW, Mr Dring said he stood by the comments made in his submission to the Anderson Inquiry (dated Oct 5, 2001).

But he added that his comments should not be taken out of context.

"Everything I wanted to say (about the outbreak) is contained in the 30 pages of evidence I submitted.

"I'm happy to stand by the comments in full but bits should not be taken out of context."

Commenting on the disclosure, a DEFRA spokesman said: "These issues have been raised before on a number of occasions. Jim Dring's primary role as a State Veterinary Service vet, was to check the welfare of the animals on the farm. "And the stock welfare at the time of his last visit prior to the FMD outbreak was satisfactory."