Hold your breath?

When I heard the news on Friday evening my heart sank.

Frankly, it’s a bit superfluous to add my expressions of concern and fear for the rural community to the hand-wringing pot. It’s a given that we’re all holding our breath and praying that foot-and-mouth ? and the associated media hysteria ? doesn’t escalate. We all remember 2001. That wasn’t exactly a vintage year for those in the country.

So we wait and watch to hear the latest news. Will there be further outbreaks? Let’s hope it really is isolated. There are reassuring words from Government spokesmen ? this isn’t a highly contagious version of the virus and it is relatively mild. Nevertheless the Pirbright labs, from one of which the outbreak must surely have emanated, ostensibly handle the virus with the same degree of biosecurity as the ebola virus. Or, at least, they’re supposed to?

The finger of suspicion historically points to the uncaring, money-motivated and sloppy farmer when a disease outbreak occurs. The popular image is of handout-hungry Farmer Giles greedily calculating the compensation claim and planning his next skiing trip. But in this case, it’s hardly reassuring to think that the facilities whose purpose is to research, prevent, and treat infectious diseases in livestock could be the very source of this outbreak. If I was working for DEFRA, right now I’d be praying that the finger of suspicion finally falls on the Merial facility next door and not the Government’s own Institute for Animal Health.

If the outbreak is traced back to a Government lab, as in some sort of nightmare movie plot, then DEATHRA really will live up to its tongue-in-cheek moniker.

And Farmer Giles has every right to be thoroughly furious.