Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A weakness in the system

Hilary Benn has chosen this precise moment to tell the EFRA Select Committee that that there are swingeing cuts to be made in animal health...
So in spite of the looming death of livestock farming, the threat of bluetongue, foot and mouth, TB, and a host of other zoonoses on the move towards us, some of which could affect or even kill humans, animal health doesn't really matter.
"I am keen to make progress on savings in animal health..."
As for the escape of virus - it was just a
"weakness in the system"

Yes. One could say that.

Aghast to hear that animal health doesn't really matter would have been those gathered in Washington for the OIE conference They are, dare we say, more influential than Mr Benn, and not only know the opposite to be true but are saying so loud and clear:
"Healthy animals are crucial for the future of human race"
said Dr. David Nabarro, United Nation System Influenza Coordinator

"emerging animal diseases, three quarters of which are zoonotic, are set to become more and more part of the world landscape...the international community will be required to take an increasingly active long-term role in a global system of animal disease prevention and control."
said Dr. François Le Gall of the World Bank.
"only one country which does not comply may endanger the entire planet"
said Bernard Vallat, Director General of OIE,

The OIE conference brought together the eminent voices of specialists of both animal and public health, World Bank economists and experts in development. All renowned worldwide. They had gathered to discuss ways of dealing with zoonoses in the globalised world - and one of their major conclusions?
The costs of preventing major animal diseases are significantly less than those associated with outbreaks

Hilary Benn is widely acknowledged to be a nice man. He is nice, gentle and earnest, his father is liked and admired even by former enemies - and Hilary himself is a good man and, whisper it quietly, a vegetarian. What rotten luck to be handed the poisoned chalice of DEFRA just in time for the floods, pestilence and plagues to arrive.
But he is the wrong man, pursuing the wrong policies in the wrong government. We are seeing some wretched decisions being made.

Can the government really be watching the demise of farming with complacency and even satisfaction? Can those who talk blithely of the need to get rid of farmers really not know that the end of traditional livestock farming means the end of UK self sufficiency, the end of the much loved rural landscape, the end for many dependent wildlife species who need livestock farming and the end of unique skills and family traditions that will change for ever the heart and face of Britain?

The crisis in farming, particularly in the hilly areas of England, Wales and Scotland, is of enormous importance to Britain as a whole. It can never be put into reverse once it reaches a critical point. The fact that the opposition parties appear ignorant of these vital matters too is yet another indication of the depths to which the parliamentary system has sunk - a 'weakness in the system' that threatens even greater danger to us all than the escape of virus that could, with vaccination, have been contained and remedied within days.

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