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Feb 17 2011  Letter to the head of regional and local programmes for BBC South West, 

Dear Mr Devine
 
Re  Inside Out South West - Monday 14th Feb - ("How prepared are we for the next Foot and Mouth crisis?")
 
I've been studying the Foot and Mouth crisis for ten years.  Monday's programme was the very first time on English television that I have seen a challenge made to both the 2001 foot and mouth policy and to the current Contingency Plan.
 
Unlike other BBC efforts on the same subject of FMD's ten years anniversary,  (Countryfile, Farming Today and the Cumbria region's Inside Out,)  the South West edition, so ably presented by the farmer, Paula Wolton, didn't dwell on the sadness of what happened, but moved on to the questionable nature of the need for it to have happened at all. 
 
But the programme lasted for a mere 9 minutes. 
 
There was so much more to be said. 
 
To have got such frank and challenging interviews from Anthony Gibson and from the former President of the RCVS about  what happened in 2001, and what should have happened in the intervening ten years, was a real achievement.  It  left the viewer wondering why our present policy continues even now to prevaricate on modern disease control methods when the alternatives are so dreadful. 
 
 It is never mentioned by the opponents of the use of the excellent modern vaccines, DIVA tests and  accurate portable rapid diagnosis assays that the losers are the rural community of Britain, the non-exporting farmers and their animals, and ultimately all  UK consumers.  It is they  who have to pay such a very high price for DEFRA's dithering and the UK's  reluctance to challenge the EU Directive's unscientific, outdated regulations.
 
The DCVO, Alick Simmons,  left one feeling very apprehensive indeed about what would happen if FMD comes back - as it surely will.  The disease is endemic in wildlife as near as Thrace  - and UK border controls are anything but "robust" as Mr Simmons would have us believe.
 
People have been led to believe that the killing of so many million animals in 2001 was necessary.  They are not told that the majority of these animals were healthy and uninfected, that the policy was driven by a flawed mathematical model at a time when the disease was already in decline, that there was political panic about the coming election, and that there was a level of organisational chaos that has never been been properly admitted or addressed.  The notion that the public wouldn't eat vaccinated meat is another absurdity.  We were eating FMD vaccinated meat from South America in 2001 and virtually all meat today comes from animals that have been vaccinated against some disease or other.
 
Please could you, as head of regional and local programmes for BBC South West, let me know what are the chances of a  full length documentary being shown in which these issues could be properly presented to the public?  I am told that rushes from the preparation for the programme are still available and would be of great interest in a longer programme.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Mary Critchley