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Unions' Outrage at More Unbelievable FMD Failings

by 5m Editor
26 November 2007, at 11:30am

UK - Both the NFUS and NFU Cymru have responded angrily to news that the Foot and Mouth virus was allowed to escape into the drainage system for a second time.

Shambles at Pirbright

After such crucial failings were painstakingly pin-pointed in the summer months, these findings are incredulous, coming just two weeks after both the Health and Safety Executive and Defra gave the site a clean bill of health, says the Unions.

Dai Davies, President of NFU Cymru called the failings a "Total and utter shambles.", blaming government regulation failures for allowing the virus to be leaked out again"

“Since the first leak of the Foot and Mouth virus from Pirbright in August, and the catastrophic effect this had on our industry, we have been lectured about the need for bio-security. Yet we now see the very site that leaked the first outbreak breaking down for a second time. This level of bungling and incompetence is simply not acceptable and the livestock sector in this country will rightly be absolutely horrified.”

"To cap it all", he says, "The Government is about to start a consultation on cost and responsibility sharing for animal health diseases, but how can they realistically expect the industry to engage in this process when they are unable to manage and control their own sites, and refuse to pay for the consequences of their own bungling?"

“Putting it bluntly," Dai Davies continued, "Our livestock sector is on its knees as a result of the leak of the Foot and Mouth virus from the Government’s Pirbright site in August. To learn today that the same site allowed the virus to leak out again last week is beyond comprehension.”

The NFUS were equally forthcoming about the event. I a press release submitted on their website Jim Mclaren had the following words to say.

“The only good thing about this news is the confirmation that the additional biosecurity controls in place have prevented this leak into a drain turning into an escape of virus from the site, but otherwise it really beggars belief. Pirbright is once more shut down, again the result of an inability to properly handle dangerous virus. It was bad enough the first time round, but for it to happen again, just a fortnight after regaining the licence to work with FMD virus, is inexcusable.

No consolation
“The fact that this time round, the biosecurity controls didn’t completely break down will be little consolation to Scottish farmers who are still reeling from the effects of the first leak and who were given assurances by Defra just 16 days ago that Pirbirght was up to the job - assurances that were clearly wide of the mark.

“Shutting down the site is clearly the right move until it can be worked out what an earth is happening at Pirbright. However, the irony of this latest debacle is that the industry desperately requires a vaccine to halt the spread of bluetongue, yet Pirbright, where vaccine is developed, is now shut down again adding to the potential damage this ongoing incompetence could cause.

“It was clear enough to us four months ago that Government has responsibility for the consequences of failures on the sites it licenses. That has come into even starker focus today. The case for compensation for the financial disaster unleashed in recent months is unarguable. Instead, all we have had is Hilary Benn talking about industry having to share the cost of disease outbreaks in future. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.”

Any further consequences of the leak are yet to be seen.

5m Editor