Burges Salmon attacks policy on Foot-and-Mouth slaughter

Bristol firm Burges Salmon has been appointed to advise on a High Court action set to challenge the Government’s proposed policy of slaughtering healthy animals to stop the Foot-and-Mouth crisis.

Peter and Juliet Kindersley, founders of the Dorling Kindersley publishing house, are funding the High Court challenge on behalf of several Cumbrian farmers and the organic farming research centre Elm Farm. This is thought to be the first legal action of the crisis.

The Burges Salmon team is led by partner William Neville, who works exclusively for the agricultural industry doing both litigation and general advisory work.

As The Lawyer went to press, an application for judicial review was being prepared by Burges Salmon. Neville has instructed Nicholas Green QC of Brick Court Chambers. Burges Salmon will be seeking an expedited hearing for the case due to the urgency of the situation.

Neville says that the case will involve two lines of attack. “As the Government’s policy seems to be incapable of being implemented on the ground at a sufficient speed to be effective, then it’s doomed to failure. Therefore, you need to fall back on a different policy to be effective, which would be a combination of slaughter and vaccination.

“If the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had been able to do it as quickly as the slaughter of 1967-68, then it might have been effective. But because they’ve not been able to do that, it’s an ineffective policy.”

The second line of attack is a straight legal argument on the basis that, under the Animal Health Act 1981, Government minister Nick Brown does not have the power to order the slaughter on a precautionary basis.

Peter Kindersley says: “If the court agrees with our arguments, we’ll be asking it to call a halt to the slaughter of healthy animals and to refer the matter back to ministers for urgent reconsideration.”