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Regionals praised in foot and mouth inquiry

The Western Morning News and Western Daily Press were two newspapers singled out for praise in Dr Iain Anderson’s report into the foot and mouth crisis.

The report – Lessons to be Learned – acknowledged the valuable role the WMN played in highlighting the local agenda in what was seen as a “London-imposed” line often taken by the national media.

It also quoted from a WMN editorial of April 22 this year, which said: “The contiguous cull was the single most controversial policy initiative of the entire battle against foot and mouth disease

“It was crude, mediaeval and extremely brutal.”

It said the WMN had seen “how clearly the national crisis was affecting their local; communities”.

And it acknowledged that local stories like Phoenix, the calf that escaped the cull – first shown exclusively in the Exeter Express & Echo – had often become national headlines.

WMN editor Barrie Williams, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said: “‘Sombre and thoughtful” – the words of [environment, food and rural affairs secretary] Margaret Beckett – it may be.

“It is certainly extremely detailed. But when all is said and done the Anderson Report into the lessons learned from last year’s foot and mouth disaster is of an inquiry set up by the Government, on the Government’s own terms and with the Government’s chosen chairman.

“As a consequence, those of us who lived through the disaster find it difficult to accept his findings as the definitive end to the matter.

“Only a full and open public inquiry, with ministers and other key players called to give evidence, would have satisfied us.

“We did not get it. We were, therefore, deprived of the open justice which is our human right.

“The Western Morning News is also able to bestow on Margaret Beckett our Pinocchio’s Nose Award for the most outrageously and demonstrably untrue statement made by any minister this summer.

“It came on Friday night as she opened the Government’s first ever Rural Conference by declaring that New Labour is now “the party of the countryside”.

“As a whopping great “porkie” they don’t come much bigger, but it got even worse. She went on to state that rural areas had suffered heavily at the hands of the Conservatives who had taken country people for granted. Can you believe the bare-faced cheek of the woman?”

The Anderson report also praised the “special role” the Western Daily Press, and other papers in the worst-hit areas played during the crisis, stressing: “[It saw] clearly how the national crisis was affecting their local communities.”

  • The Western Morning News also published an eight-page examination of the Anderson report, printing its introduction and a summary of the key findings.

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