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
The public and media are now all too well aware that a public awareness
campaign doesn't constitute a cure.