The vet who oversaw the Government's
controversial foot and mouth strategy is to stand down next year - and
ministers are offering a six-figure salary to attract a replacement. Jim
Scudamore, who came under pressure to quit his post as the Government's
chief vet in the wake of the 2001 crisis, is to retire next
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has
now hired recruitment consultants in a bid to fill the role, which
attracts a salary of more than £100,000 a year.
Dr Scudamore rose
to public prominence during the foot and mouth crisis when he oversaw the
controversial contiguous cull policy, which led to the slaughter of more
than six million animals, most of them perfectly healthy.
although he was nominally in charge of the policy and supportive of it in
public, the decision to widen the cull is believed to have been taken by
Downing Street on the advice of the Government's chief scientist David
Privately Dr Scudamore is believed to have harboured doubts
about the policy, which brought the disease under control only at the cost
of an enormous number of animal lives and vast sums of public
Nevertheless Dr Scudamore came under pressure to quit when
inquiries into the handling of the disaster revealed that he had failed to
implement fully an internal report warning that the State Veterinary
Service would quickly become "overwhelmed" in the event of a major disease
outbreak. The Government's contingency plan for dealing with foot and
mouth was also heavily criticised for working on the basis of a maximum of
only ten cases of the disease. In the event there were more than
But ministers were reluctant to allow Dr Scudamore to become
a scapegoat and a Defra spokesman yesterday said he would remain in the
post until his normal retirement date next spring. Ian Johnson, spokesman
for the National Farmers' Union in the South West, said Dr Scudamore had
presided over a system that proved far too centralised during the foot and
"I am sure he made a very valuable contribution
during his time, but I'm not sure he will be much missed by Westcountry
farmers," he said.
"Particularly during the foot and mouth crisis
there was a terrible atmosphere of distrust and hostility caused by the
intransigence of people in Whitehall, of which he was a senior part, who
refused to accept the advice of the people at the sharp end.
were getting this very rigid and inflexible approach from the centre which
caused months of unnecessary anguish.
"That said, whoever has that
job is not in an enviable position - it is a very tough job."
Scudamore's successor will have responsibility for implementing the
Government's new animal health and welfare strategy and for dealing with
any future outbreaks of animal disease.
In a detailed job
description the recruitment consultants concede that few people are likely
to have the skills and stomach for what is a "tough, high profile
Dr Scudamore has held the post of chief vet since 1997 when
he was charged with dealing with the fallout from the BSE