Meat and livestock industry leaders said the potential damage from foot-and-mouth disease to Australian cattle and livestock would be devastating, but also warned of fears over the subject.
“That would be catastrophic,” said Jason Strong, chief executive of the Meat and Livestock Association. the herald and age.
But he said the nature of the disease was ‘one of those things you can make look really bad’ and described some of the recent comments as ‘unnecessarily alarmist’.
“I think there’s a big difference between being aware and concerned and prepared and being alarmed and panicked,” Strong said, pointing to the overall strength of the nation’s biosecurity laws and praising the federal government’s response to date as being “very coordinated and collaborative”.
“We actually have a very detailed and established exotic disease response plan for the entire industry…that is endorsed and supported by the entire industry.”
He also said that a specialist working group dedicated to the management of foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease involving members of industry and a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry meets weekly. and described the communication and cooperation as “exceptional”.
Patrick Hutchinson, the head of Australia’s post-farm meat industry body, Australian Meat Industry Council, also raised concerns about “misrepresentation” and reminded Australians that the virus fragments detected yesterday did not mean that Australia had foot-and-mouth disease.
“What worries us the most is that people who bring products may not declare [it]then smuggle food into the country, which then ends up in regional areas where animals can consume it and thus catch the disease,” he said.
“So while people have lost their minds about flip flops in Bali, which is…medium impact, lowest likelihood [on a risk matrix] … the big issue for us is infected food products entering Australia, which in turn have to enter the livestock feed supply chain and be consumed by the animals for this to begin next.