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Matthew Knight is an organic farmer in mid-Devon. His following comments were circulated on the Internet on 12 December 2001.

I have felt throughout this last few months that the focus on "bio-security" - a term I had never encountered before 2001 and of which I remain very suspicious - was very much a part of the Government's attempts to shift the blame for F&M onto farmers.

On this farm we are encouraged by the MAFF/DEFRA killers to allow people access through the stewardship scheme. The "right to roam" is something the general public wants and, I believe, deserves. I do not wish to impose continued strict biosecurity measures on my family or friends, nor on passing uninvited visitors.

Commercial, institutional and social visitors to farms; and of course wildlife, make biosecurity both a variable and, in most cases, unattainable goal.

My belief is that biosecurity on farms is a smokescreen, a distraction from the reality of what really is achievable and important. By focussing on this issue we are being distracted from the truth:

1. Foot & Mouth Disease is something we can easily control by vaccinating susceptible/ endangered animals, should it return, or better still by an integrated approach which includes treatment for animals infected but not badly affected. .

2. Keeping animals to a high standard of welfare will ensure that if faced with a disease challenge they are better able to fight it off - unattainable biosecurity is low on our list of priorities - ensuring that our animals have strong constitutions and immune systems is more important.

3. The spread of disease through unregulated and massive livestock movements was responsible for the larger part of the chaos of this year- a result of policy and subsidy failures, not poor biosecurity.

4. The cull and the perpetrators of the cull caused the death of all those wretched creatures, not F&M, not inadequate "biosecurity".

When the day comes that any of my neighbours don't feel able to climb our gate and come and visit us, it will be the day I don't want to be farming any more. I don't want to live like that and I don't believe it is the right way for us to spend our energy.

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