EDITORIAL: Foot-and-mouth PR fallout grows

The emotional turmoil generated by the foot-and-mouth outbreak

reached a new level of ferocity and confusion this week, as news emerged

of £1m plus compensation payments to 37 UK farmers whose livestock

were devastated by the disease.

Having been initially portrayed as martyrs by the fickle UK media,

farmers now find themselves demonised as profiteering, and in some

cases, even fraudulent - muddy ing the waters still further.

It wouldn't take a Downing Street spin doctor to predict that reports of

farmers sobbing over soon to be culled lambs would give way to righteous

indignation over the level of compensation to 'foot-and-mouth

millionaires,' but the inevitable swing in opinion will prove very

useful when it comes to pushing through compulsory insurance against

future disease outbreaks.

It is hardly surprising that Tory fingers are pointing at a ministerial


But the decision to launch a multi-million pound campaign to persuade

customers of the safety of lamb was less well-timed, coinciding with new

uncertainty over whether BSE has infected sheep.

To city-based media, the issues surrounding BSE and foot-and-mouth have

become virtually indivisible. Whatever the final scientific findings,

the Government would be well-advised to allow some of the heat to die

down, and some semblance of rational debate to prevail, before they risk

launching a public awareness campaign against the backdrop of uncertain

scientific findings.

The public and media are now all too well aware that a public awareness

campaign doesn't constitute a cure.

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