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Outbreaks of Foot and Mouth and Stupidity

Import News from the Importers Institute
2 April 2001

Outbreaks of Foot and Mouth and Stupidity

Foot baths for all passengers from Britain and instant deportation of people who do not declare foodstuffs on arrival were suggested by people hitherto suspected of having some intelligence.

Foot and mouth disease in endemic in parts of Asia. It is no big deal; cattle is vaccinated and the disease does not affect humans. Several hundred Asian visitors land on our shores every day but it took an outbreak in Britain to bring out the panic merchants. The first to beat the drums were our quarantine bureaucrats, ever hungry for more "resources" (money) to protect a bubble economy.

The politicians duly obliged by spending some millions of dollars on new x-ray machines. Every item of luggage will now be x-rayed. We look forward to the day when this is done out the back, as the bags are unloaded from the planes and before they are placed on the conveyor belt. That would minimise inconvenience to passengers.

Opposition politicians were quick to jump on this bandwagon, going to the extent of getting some passengers to complain that they were not personally gassed on arrival. Some even suggested that people who fail to declare foodstuffs in their luggage should be immediately deported. As 42% of such people are New Zealanders, it is not immediately clear where we should send them. "Some former Soviet Union gulag in Siberia?", asked Minister Jim Sutton.

The Europeans are in a bind. Their subsidy-fed, intensive agrarian sector is particularly vulnerable to diseases of this type. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to halt the spread of foot and mouth disease in a continent without borders and large volumes of internal trade and travel. The Greens' anti-capitalist dream of a return to closed borders, pre-industrial societies is not a solution - it is a juvenile fantasy.

New Zealand will have to make rational decisions on bio-security risk management. These decisions should not be left exclusively to self-interested bureaucrats in empire-building mode, Coromandel hippies in back-to-the-caves mode, hapless Government politicians in cover-thy-rear mode or equally hapless Opposition politicians in gratuitous-point-scoring mode.

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