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Judge Acknowledges Farmer Impact of Pirbright

26 February 2009
National Farmers Union

UK - A three-day hearing in the National Farmers Union-backed legal case brought by livestock farmers claiming damages following the 2007 foot and mouth disease outbreak concluded today with the Judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, reserving judgment.

The hearing concerned applications that had been made by the defendants in the case - the Institute for Animal Health, Merial Animal Health Limited and Defra (via the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) - to have the claims either struck out, or for judgment to be given in their favour at this early stage in the proceedings.

The applications were vigorously contested by the farmers bringing the claims. Richard Lissack QC, leading the case for the farmers, said the farmers' claims were serious, substantial and meritorious.


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"If proper biosecurity and containment measures had been in place at Pirbright, this outbreak wouldn't have happened"
NFU President Peter Kendall

Yesterday in Court, Tim Lord QC representing the farmers referred to concerns about the drains and biosecurity measures at the Pirbright facility, long before the FMD outbreak in 2007, and to the losses that the farmers had suffered as a result of the outbreak. He said: "It is nothing short of scandalous that there should be these losses as a result and that they should go uncompensated."

The Judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, said in Court on Monday: "…I have very much in mind how devastating the consequences of this outbreak surely were to a great many livestock farmers."

NFU President Peter Kendall said the NFU now needed to wait for the outcome of the hearing and would be reviewing the judgment carefully when it was handed down by the Judge.

Mr Kendall said: "The impacts of the FMD outbreak in 2007 were devastating for many farming businesses, and this claim is about getting redress for those farmers. If proper biosecurity and containment measures had been in place at Pirbright, this outbreak wouldn't have happened.

"This is a crucial hearing, and the NFU is giving the farmers bringing these claims our full support. We want those who were responsible for the outbreak to be held to account."

The case has been backed by the NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme. The solicitors instructed by the claimants are Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons, one of the NFU's panel firms. The claimants are also represented by Richard Lissack QC, Tim Lord QC and Maya Lester.

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