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 By the late Seventies many ageing car plants were hopelessly uncompetitive, weighed down with outdated equipment and antiquated working practices.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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee