As a retired educator, I always take reports like this as an indictment of my own profession. How could we have not only passed these blockheads, but graduated them into careers in government that would make them public health hazards?
Ministers have been privately considering plans to cut back on health inspections to fight avian flu, as well as a swath of other animal welfare and farm inspections, even though a new bird flu strain has been found in the UK and is considered to pose a significant risk to the poultry sector.
Papers leaked to The Guardian show the cuts were discussed at a meeting on 20 November among civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Civil servants stated: “It is potentially feasible to shift disease surveillance for AV from farms to slaughterhouses, making this form of inspection the default option.”
The civil servants recommended that the elimination of the burden “would be beneficial for farmers and lead to 349 fewer on-farm visits”. The inspections are designed to look for avian flu strains in poultry.
The drive to cut animal welfare inspections comes from the Cabinet Office-led deregulation drive known as the Red Tape Challenge.
The Guardian’s source said the document had been commissioned by the government and was discussed at stage 6 of the Red Tape Challenge last week, the “Star Chamber” meeting.
The leaked paper examines the feasibility of reducing 45 forms of animal welfare, farm and environmental inspections including checks for salmonella, TB, and brucellosis. The document looks at cut-backs for inspections covering honeybee health, intensive pig and poultry farms, tree felling, animal poisoning, and certification of seeds and free-range eggs.
In some cases the paper proposes responsibility for inspections be shifted from the government agencies to the industry.
The Red Tape Challenge states proposals will be reviewed by a ministerial “Star Chamber” with the presumption that burdensome regulations would disappear go unless they could be justified.
Any plan to cut back on farm inspections for avian flu is controversial since last week the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that Germany, the Netherlands and the UK had confirmed that the avian influenza virus strain H5N8 had been found in poultry farms. German authorities had also found the virus in a wild bird.In the days of the Ottoman Empire, a senior administrator who didn't do his job was visited by "the gardener," who arrived from Istanbul with a silk cord to be wrapped around the errant bureaucrat's throat until he was dead. A similar ribbon of red silk, in the right hands, could give our present bureaucrats a real "red tape" to worry about.