Letter. Hereford Times, April 26, 2001

MADAM, You publish letters from readers angry at the way the foot and mouth. epidemic has been turned into a catastrophe of world significance. The lessons from the outbreak in 1967/68 were clearly set out in the official enquiry report As soon as a vet identifies disease animals should be shot and buried. These lessons were not followed because we have surrendered control of our agriculture and can do nothing without permission from the EU, which takes time. Why can’t a vet take immediate action to slaughter infected animals? Because Commission directive 85/511IECC states:

"diagnosis of the disease and identification of relevant virus must be carried out under the auspices of responsible laboratories the co-ordination of which must be ensured by a reference laboratory appointed by the community."

Why are the boundaries around infected areas expressed in kilometres when we measure distance in miles? Because directive 85/511/ECC says: "Member States shall ensure that once the diagnosis of foot and mouth disease has been officially confirmed, the competent authority establishes, around the infected holding, a protection zone based on a minimum radius of three kilometres and a surveillance zone based on a minimum radius of 10 kilometres."

Why can’t we vaccinate at will, the modern way of dealing with viral sickness? Because 90/423/ECC says: "Member States shall ensure the use of foot and mouth vaccines is prohibited." However, it allows vaccination, "in extreme situations where an epizootic disease threatens to become extensive". But, "the decision to introduce emergency vaccination shall be taken by the commission. Why can’t healthy stock be slaughtered for human consumption? Because despite having asked Brussels for permission weeks ago the bureaucrats there have only just agreed on the type of meat stamp that can be used to identify British meat. Even so we could not send animals, many in desperate squalor, to abattoirs before April 23.

Why can’t rare breeds be vaccinated straight away? Because "This commission decision shall have particular regard to….the need to protect special breeds". In fact our government has not yet asked for permission. Why can’t we bury carcasses to avoid the spread of the virus by smoke? Because 80/68/EEC on the protection of groundwater makes makes it difficult; it is far easier, bureaucratically to burn instead of to bury. But these pyres run the real risk of offending agianst EC91/156 which prohibits the burning of waste materials that were not produced on the land where the fires are situated". No doubt we had to get permission for that too! We have a government so concerned to avoid the stigma of being the awkward partner in the EU regulations with a zeal that across the Channel would be considered laughable.

David Delaney, Mill House Mortimers Cross, Leominster