Memorandum submitted by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (F7)
Many members of this Association had herds of dairy cows slaughtered last year due to foot and mouth disease. Many others, whose herds were not taken out, were seriously affected by consequences of the outbreak. The recovery process emotionally, physically and financially continues and will continue for some considerable time to come.
The RABDF is very much aware that the damage and losses caused by this disease outbreak were not limited to the farming industry. The crisis, which resulted, affected all rural businesses, many of which have subsequently been lost and almost all of which suffered financially.
Everything possible must be done to prevent such a disease outbreak ever occurring again and as such the RABDF welcomes this inquiry.
Whilst the practical implications of the various FMD enquiries are awaited, there are considerable concerns that few if any real actions have taken place to prevent the disease being imported once again. The Government has stated that it will improve bio-security at points of entry into the UK but, based upon experience of our members, nothing has changed. There appears to be no effective measures to prevent the import of FMD into the UK anymore than existed 16 months ago when the disease was last imported.
The failure so far to introduce reasonable standards to minimise the risk of either illegal, or even legal, import of foodstuffs (and livestock) carrying notifiable diseases could be injurious to both animal and human health. It also carries risks of precipitating claims for compensation from those industries that suffer as a consequence of failure to protect the UK.
Whilst not providing the solution to all the wider issues, there are immediate lessons from overseas which would form the basis of prevention. The use of landing cards helps to emphasise the risk of importing pests and diseases. Visitors to, for example, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, receive a very strong message that engenders a culture of respect for the security of that country. Sniffer dogs check baggage looking for foodstuffs and suspect baggage searched and x-rayed before clearance.
Unfortunately even after the events of last year, none of that happens here. Landing cards make no mention of restrictions or security precautions. There are few signs at entry points describing prescriptions and precautions, customs officers are not always present, and thus no apparent barriers to the import of infected material including meat. The UK also has the strangest of positions in that it does allow the import of upto 1 kg of pre-packed meat from any country in the world. Not only is that in itself a risk it also gives a confused message to visitors.
The RABDF urges an early result to this inquiry as it has considerable fear that such a disastrous outbreak could happen again. In writing it also stresses the immediate need to introduce the same basic minimum standards of bio-security at all points of entry to the UK as currently exist in many countries.
The Association would be pleased to assist this inquiry further if required.