Private Eye June 29, 2001

NOT SINCE Windscale sanitised its name to Sellafield has there been such a cynical makeover as the reincarnation of the Maffia as Defra, the department of the environment, food and rural affairs.

As this was rapidly translated into anything from "Death Ray" and "Death Row" to the "Destruction of English Farming Regulatory Agency", the message had come over loud and clear. For all intents and purposes, apart from switching the puppet at the top from Nick Brown to the Great Caravanner, Mrs Margaret Beckett, the new gang is just the Maffia under another name.

Someone who deserves a genuine Not-theHonours-List award for his courage in speaking out against the Maffia is Roger Windsor, a council member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons who has been involved in the foot-and-mouth disaster in south-west Scotland. Like many other vets he has been outraged by the Maffia’s incompetence, dishonesty and wholesale breaches of the law, and at the council’s latest meeting he could contain his indignation no longer.

He began by saying that, as the vets’ leading professional body, the college should have withdrawn any further cooperation with Maff when the running of the FMD crisis was taken over by the politicians and the government’s two chief scientific advisers, neither with any veterinary qualifications: Prof David King the chemist, and the Imperial College figure-fiddler Prof Roy Anderson.

These two men had been responsible for the unnecessary destruction of up two million animals "in the name of elections and mathematics", with their "contiguous cull" (or "post code slaughter") policy, whereby animals are killed simply because they are on farms within "three kilometres" of an infected premises. Windsor’s comments on the record of Prof Anderson, whom he said "should be called not the Professor of Epidemiology but the Professor of Extermination" cannot be repeated for legal reasons.

Windsor rattled off examples of ministry incompetence he knew about at first hand, such as the farm in Galloway where the owner was milking when a convoy of army vehicles drove up to slaughter his sheep. They had been given the correct map reference but the wrong map. Animal welfare had been "completely ignored". Farmers were forbidden to move healthy animals even when they were starving and filthy, and they were forced to keep animals "in conditions for which under normal conditions they would have been prosecuted".

But the greatest professional scandal, said Windsor, which "will forever be a blot on the reputation of Maff’, was the way vets had been routinely forced to breach their professional code by signing "form A" declarations that farms were "infected" even though the animals had inspected and found healthy. They had been told by senior ministry officials (themselves vets) that, if they did not sign the forms, the livestock would all be killed anyway and the farmer would receive no compensation.

Farmers were similarly blackmailed into accepting the illegal slaughter of their sheep by being told that, if they did not cooperate, their cattle would also be killed. The police had been used to break down doors, to tear away pet goats from young girls, or to kill the five pet sheep belonging to a vet’s widow. "These horror stories," Windsor concluded, "refer only to Dumfries" but had repeated in many other places.

Did Maff still have any idea "of the meaning of decency, compassion or even justice"? If the ministry was now planning to carry on this obscene and pointless mass-slaughter more or less indefinitely, it really was time for his profession to stand up and call for the only alternative to insanity — ie mass-vaccination.