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Foot and mouth: ”on the home straight”

Eveyone’s favourite soothing soundbite spin artist Swish Tony has declared
the national gob + trotter outbreak nearly over so he can get on with the
election. He told today’s press conference in London: “The battle is not over
yet but I believe that we are on the home straight.”


The government’s glad tidings seem to be based on the idea that they’ve now tossed the last
lingering cow corpse on the barbie, and only those arriving late at the party
remain to be grilled. According to the MAFF, the number of daily cases
is now falling though fresh outbreaks are still to be expected as late as
August.


So although the Government reckons they’ve won, it’s unlikely we’ll see any
widespread lifting of access obstructions for several months which doesn’t
sound like a reason to celebrate to us.


Potential political gains uppermost in their minds, the Tories have also been
hard at work declaring the government’s handling of the crisis as incompetent
and slow but there may be more direct elements to blame than government
mismanagement.


Yesterday Chief Government advisor David King revealed some telling
information. He began with the immortal words: “I don’t know if I should say this.” And went on to say: It could be that half of the
sheep movements that occurred were not recorded.” “It is apparent from the
way the outbreak occurred that there was some borrowing of sheep.”


Although all cattle movements have to be recorded after the BSE crisis, sales
or other transfers of sheep outside markets do not have to be registered. The
practice of “bed and breakfasting” borrowed sheep to create artificially high
numbers for subsidy inspections is a well known one and Prof. King
later added: “I am not trying to suggest they [the movements] were illegal.”


Prof. King also did little to allay fears that the pyres designed to destroy
the disease might actually contribute in it’s spreading: “To date, there is
no data showing the presence of the virus surviving but clearly large
sampling needs to be done” was his initial, slightly worrying statement,
which again he tried to play down later with the following announcement: “If
you put a beast on a fire it (the virus) is killed long before the beast is
cooked.”


So as we head towards another bank holiday weekend knackered by almost total
trail closures it’s good to know that they’ve got everything under control
and the farmers and government have done everything they can to help rather
than chasing votes and subsidies.

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