Leading Article: Farmers must take action

Share
Related Topics
Only the voluntary slaughter by farmers of tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of cattle can restore public confidence in the beef industry. The only way of eliminating the commercial threat to the future of the industry is to eliminate beyond a shadow of a doubt the threat it poses to the consumer. That can only be achieved by eliminating all suspect cattle from herds and replacing them with clean cattle probably brought in from abroad. Only the pursuit of the very highest standards will now save the industry from years, perhaps decades of slow decline.

For far too long ministers have put the interests of the beef industry ahead of the interests of consumers. The risk to the industry of tighter regulation and higher standards has been judged greater than the risks to the health of the public. Now both ministers and the industry are learning a painful lesson: in the long run if you take risks with consumer confidence you risk the future of the industry itself.

The industry is in need of a restructuring as great as the car industry in the late Seventies. By the late Seventies many ageing car plants were hopelessly uncompetitive, weighed down with outdated equipment and antiquated working practices. The British car industry is back on its feet after a massive capital reconstruction, the importation of foreign management and production methods and sweeping changes to working practices. The beef industry faces no less of a challenge and should learn from some of the lessons so painfully learnt in other industries which have had to change radically to keep the trust of their consumers. It will require far-sighted, professional and at times ruthless leadership in pursuit of the highest standards of quality and safety.

That was the message ministers delivered in the House of Commons yesterday by announcing that the Government does not plan to stem the crisis by ordering the wholesale slaughter of cattle, the measure that would have done most to restore confidence. As a result, the crisis for the beef industry will roll on and its adjustment to reality may take longer than it should.

The market will run its course. If politicians will not enforce higher standards on the industry, consumers surely will, by refusing to buy British beef. The British beef and dairy industries almost certainly will be left with a lot of unproductive, if not useless, assets in the form of cows, land and equipment, now worth far less than a week ago.

Two courses of action face the industry. It may hope that very few cases emerge of the new strain of CJD which is linked to BSE. It could disappear into its bunker, deny the scale of the problem and hope it may emerge in months, if not years, far smaller but still intact. The danger of that piecemeal approach is huge: the industry may never escape the shadow it is under. British beef will be as tainted as British cars were in the Seventies. It could take the industry a decade or more to rid itself of such a bad reputation.

So a radical and far-reaching strategy clearly to put its house in order is essential. For the far-sighted farmer, that should involve the voluntary slaughter of any cows at the slightest risk of contracting BSE and the importation of completely clean herds and processes from abroad. It is time for the farmers to reassure their consumers: only actions will do.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices