March 17, 2002 Sunday Telegraph (London) by Christopher BookerThree High Court judges may last Friday have rejected a judicial review of the Government's refusal to allow an independent inquiry into the foot and mouth catastrophe, on the bizarre argument that people are free to pronounce on the Government's handling of the crisis "by the ballot box". But the Government's remorseless efforts to suppress any proper investigation have inspired many of those professionally involved in this disaster to come up with their own findings.
One particularly powerful report is that drawn up by Dr Sheila Crispin, a leading light of Bristol University's veterinary department, who last year helped to fight the crisis in Northumberland. Her conclusions on the shambles in which she found herself caught up can be read on www.warmwell.com. Dr Crispin reports on the chaos resulting from the bureaucratic centralisation of the handling of the crisis; on how panic in Downing Street "turned a crisis into a disaster"; how the army was "extremely professional" but how many soldiers "expressed the private opinion that Government policy appeared irrational". She excoriates the way that the direction of the crisis was handed over to "some rather unusual and inappropriate scientists" with no veterinary experience, and how their contiguous cull policy contributed to the spread of the disease.
She records how she was converted to the scientific arguments in favour of vaccination, pointing out that the NFU "did not represent those farmers at the heart of the crisis" and how its spokesmen were so "woefully ignorant" on this issue that "they should not have entered into the debate". She is above all withering about the arrogant incompetence shown by many Government officials, leading to immense and unnecessary suffering for both animals and people.
When she ends by pointing out that if the Government succeeds in ramming its Animal Health Bill through Parliament it will merely give the same people power to repeat such "appalling" mistakes on an even greater scale, her words burn off the page. They will doubtless be quoted when peers have a final chance to halt this scandalous Bill in 10 days' time.