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Army would handle future outbreaks of farm disease foot-and-mouth:

April 2, 2002 Financial Times (London) by Cathy Newman
The army and the police will be drafted in immediately to handle future foot-and-mouth outbreaks, under plans being drawn up by the government. Ministers admit it was a mistake not using the armed forces earlier in last years's epidemic. Troops were only deployed a month after the first case was confirmed in Essex on February 20 last year. However, one well-placed minister said that in future outbreaks, the army and the police would be brought in "from day one". Ministers fear that the "Lessons Learned" inquiry being conducted by the microbiologist Dr Iain Anderson will conclude that the government made a serious error in failing to bring in troops earlier.

"Anderson's very interested in command control: he thinks we should have brought the army and police in on day one," said the minister, adding that much tougher contingency plans, based on an Australian model, would be adopted in future.

The government has defended its decision not to deploy troops sooner. Critics have attacked ministers for failing to slaughter infected animals swiftly enough, allowing infection to take hold across the country.

There was also a delay in disposing of slaughtered livestock, and it was feared that piles of rotting carcasses caused the disease to spread, while also harming the nation's economy by deterring tourists from visiting.

In its submission to the Anderson inquiry just over a week ago, the government failed directly to answer these criticisms.

It said: "The armed forces were crucial to the logistical operation. The MoD was informed at the outset of the epidemic, and the armed forces were fully brought in once it was clear the outbreak was a serious national one, and the size of the disposal challenge became clear."

However, Lord Whitty, food and farming minister, paved the way for a change of policy, by admitting when he submitted the 140-page dossier to the inquiry that "there are some things that, with hindsight, we would do differently or better".

In its submission, the government promised in future to protect the tourism industry by keeping footpaths open in areas not hit by the disease, and to limit the spread of foot-and-mouth by stopping all animal movements once a case was confirmed.

At the peak of the epidemic, 2,000 members of the armed forces were involved in attempts to control the outbreak. The government has described its response to foot-and-mouth as a "logistical exercise" that was "bigger and more complex ... than the UK involvement in the Gulf war".

More than 4m animals were culled, costing Pounds 1.2bn in compensation to farmers. A further 2.5m animals were killed for welfare reasons as they were marooned in winter pastures. The army and the police will be drafted in immediately to handle future foot-and-mouth outbreaks, under plans being drawn up by the government. Ministers admit it was a mistake not using the armed forces earlier in last years's epidemic. Troops were only deployed a month after the first case was confirmed in Essex on February 20 last year. However, one well-placed minister said that in future outbreaks, the army and the police would be brought in "from day one". Ministers fear that the "Lessons Learned" inquiry being conducted by the microbiologist Dr Iain Anderson will conclude that the government made a serious error in failing to bring in troops earlier.

"Anderson's very interested in command control: he thinks we should have brought the army and police in on day one," said the minister, adding that much tougher contingency plans, based on an Australian model, would be adopted in future.

The government has defended its decision not to deploy troops sooner. Critics have attacked ministers for failing to slaughter infected animals swiftly enough, allowing infection to take hold across the country.

There was also a delay in disposing of slaughtered livestock, and it was feared that piles of rotting carcasses caused the disease to spread, while also harming the nation's economy by deterring tourists from visiting.

In its submission to the Anderson inquiry just over a week ago, the government failed directly to answer these criticisms.

It said: "The armed forces were crucial to the logistical operation. The MoD was informed at the outset of the epidemic, and the armed forces were fully brought in once it was clear the outbreak was a serious national one, and the size of the disposal challenge became clear."

However, Lord Whitty, food and farming minister, paved the way for a change of policy, by admitting when he submitted the 140-page dossier to the inquiry that "there are some things that, with hindsight, we would do differently or better".

In its submission, the government promised in future to protect the tourism industry by keeping footpaths open in areas not hit by the disease, and to limit the spread of foot-and-mouth by stopping all animal movements once a case was confirmed.

At the peak of the epidemic, 2,000 members of the armed forces were involved in attempts to control the outbreak. The government has described its response to foot-and-mouth as a "logistical exercise" that was "bigger and more complex ... than the UK involvement in the Gulf war".

More than 4m animals were culled, costing Pounds 1.2bn in compensation to farmers. A further 2.5m animals were killed for welfare reasons as they were marooned in winter pastures.

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