Bill to justify illegal cull

March 2002

ASTONISHING figures just extracted from Defra confirm that last year's "contiguous cull", the strategy promoted by the Imperial College computer to tackle the foot and mouth crisis, was one of the greatest criminal acts ever committed by a British Government.

The only legal power Defra had to order the killing of some nine million animals, just because they were on farms within three kilometres of an infected farm, was provided by the Animal Health Act 1981. This permits the killing of animals only where there is evidence of infection or of direct exposure to infection.

The new figures show that not a single one of the 3,305 farms which lost their animals under the cull tested positive for the virus. Of 3,873 farms "slaughtered out" only one tested positive. Defra weakly pleads that, despite its own figures, other evidence indicates that 120 out of 2,960 cull farms were positive. But this is still less than 2 per cent of the total, meaning on its own admission that 98 per cent of the animals were killed illegally.

It is precisely because the Government knows that it was acting way outside its legal powers that it is pushing through its new Animal Health Bill, giving its officials power to kill any animal they wish, without having to produce justification and making it a criminal offence for anyone to object.

A final chance to stop this extraordinary Bill lies with the peers who consider it at Committee stage this week.

From Christopher Booker's Notebook - Sunday Telegraph