Letter in The Daily Telegraph,
from Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North,
6 August 2001.
SIR - May we use your columns to deplore the continuing campaign of disinformation which has been waged by the National Farmers Union against the use of vaccination in the foot and mouth crisis.
Nothing has done more to prejudice both farmers and the public against vaccination than claims made by the NFU leadership on the issue, almost every one of which can be shown to be factually misleading.
One persistent claim, for instance, has been that any animals vaccinated must be destroyed. On Saturday's Today programme, the NFU's policy director, Ian Gardiner, stated unequivocally that "under Community law, the Dutch were forced to kill all vaccinated animals, and I don't understand why that law would not be applied in Britain".
This is simply not true. When, in April, Holland was authorised by the European Commission to use vaccination, the Dutch government was not "forced to kill all vaccinated animals".
With those animals subject to the "protective vaccination" regime, it was given the option to allow them to live, though this meant it would take longer for the country to regain its disease-free trading status.
Even more strikingly, when the British Government was authorised in March to vaccinate cattle in Devon and Cumbria, by Commission decision 2001/257, this carried the condition that "such vaccinated animals are not subject to pre-emptive slaughter".
The NFU has made similarly inaccurate statements about almost every other aspect of vaccination, ranging from the unfounded claim that it does not work with sheep to the charge that inoculated animals may still spread infection.
Just why our leading farming union should have chosen to oppose a policy which might have saved millions of animals and the livelihoods of thousands of its members remains a mystery.
But the methods it has used to distort public understanding of this issue are nothing short of a scandal.
Dr Richard North