DEFRA has issued a News Release and a very curious document it is. Such is the depth of our cynicism and scepticism concerning any Government pronouncement these days, so inured have we become to spin since the reign of one Alistair Campbell, the most interesting Propaganda Chief since April 1945, that we look at it askance.

In reading it one should bear in mind that Gordon Brown still has an open option on plunging us unnecessarily into an election a mere two years and six months after the last one (at which his party got a sound working majority which remains to this day). One thing which could interfere with his chances is if someone should start complaining in the next couple of days that such an election is impossible given the risks associated with the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease and the precautions to prevent such a spread.

Fred Landeg, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer said:

“Defra continues to work with a core group of industry stakeholders to try to minimise the spread and economic effects of this disease. Current evidence gives a degree of confidence that the disease is currently contained within the Control Zone, and all current measures are focused on ensuring this remains the case.”

“Evidence continues to indicate that this outbreak is likely to be confined to a relatively small area of the country and not become geographically extensive and that the risk of spread outside of the Foot and Mouth Disease risk area remains very low.”

So far, so good, though one needs to look with care at the words ‘current’, ‘degree’ ‘currently’ and ‘likely’: loads of wiggle room there, you might think. We seem not to have seen much of Debbie Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer, however, but doubtless there is a good reason for that.

But, nonetheless, with the DCVO’s reassuring words, the warmth of the security blanket is there, we should not worry ourselves overmuch about it spreading. Or should we?

“The evidence indicates that spread is local. While the exact mechanism cannot be firmly established, it is most likely to be windborne or mechanical transmission.

“It remains the case that the outbreak is most likely to be confined to this small area in the south east of England , but our intensive surveillance work continues. That does not mean that we can become complacent about FMD in the rest of the country. Animal Keepers must continue to be vigilant in checking stock.”

Yet further emollient words, the outbreak will not spread. It is, after all only likely to be ‘windborne’ or transmitted mechanically, i.e. by a tractor or a 4WD or somesuch. So that is OK then………

So, it is October. Does the wind blow in this season? Do tractors move about the countryside at this time of the year? Do deer not stop moving about the countryside just now? Do 4WDs continue to thunder up and down our country lanes just now? Do pigs fly?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.