My heart goes out this morning to all of our livestock farmers who have woken to the news of yet another outbreak of foot and mouth disease, this time in Surrey.

Given that this is the same administration which so bungled the last outbreak of this horrendous disease of livestock, they could be forgiven for thinking that we are being beset with a series of plague and disasters of biblical proportions.

The Farming Industry has shifted far from the days in the 1980s and 1990s when many (but by no means all) farmers were making very good money indeed for what is, let us face it a lot of hard work which requires considerable risk taking (just think about buying a £100,000 combined harvester and then having no crop to sell because of floods). The foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 prostrated not only the farmers but innumerable other rural businesses as well, in particular tourism into which many farmers seeking to diversify had put money by opening B&Bs on their farms. This was then followed by this know-nothing, do-nothing government’s casual and negligent handling of the Farm Subsidy Payments scheme which lurched from disaster to disaster, overseen by thoughtless Ministers who know nothing of real business, the countryside or farming, forcing farmers to throw themselves on the tender mercies of ever more sceptical banks as they mortgaged their farms (and their patrimony) to the hilt and beyond.

Small wonder then that Macavity has stepped on the gas up the M5 and M4 to get back to London to take charge of managing this particular crisis.

Two particular concerns immediately occur to one. The first is whether there is any relationship between this outbreak and the only laboratory which has samples of the virus of F&M in the UK which is some four or so miles away. It only needs a careless technician to decide to relieve himself on the way home within the farm’s curtilage for this highly infectious disease to be on the move.

Secondly is the nature of this particular farm which is apparently used a fattening unit for cattle brought in from heaven’s knows where. This raises the concern that the disease is already out there in different areas, spread unknowingly by visitors to the farm.

One wonders if the time has come to have special rules for hygiene and disinfection of a more permanent nature for such units, which are quite different from a typical farm where only one herd resides over many years and where visitors are relatively few and far between. This is a place to which over a year many many loads of cattle are brought in and go out to a variety of places. What better medium for transmission over a wide area?

Meanwhile, Mr. David Cameron seems to have learnt the lesson from his last bit of inattention and is on his way back to the UK as well.

Doubtless both he and Mr. Brown must be cursing inwardly at this disruption to their leisure time. They should remember that bad crises often brew in August:both the last two Test Matches against the Hun kicked off in August. The Great War broke out in the first week of August 1914 and, after signing up to the infamous Non-Aggression Pact with the USSR in late August, Hitler gave orders to the Wehrmacht to step across the Polish Border in the last hours of August 1939.

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