SIR, In last weeks The Scottish Farmer, May 11, it was interesting to read three stories that it could be said were of a similar vein.

Andrew Connon blasting border control checks as ‘woeful’ along with a story of the seizure of meat entering the UK at Dover, seized because it was certainly not fit for human consumption and extolling the dangers that such meat may well at some point bring African Swine Fever (ASF) to UK shores, and then going on to tell us that the budget at Dover for carrying out these checks was being slashed to the bare bones, indicating life would become easier for the smugglers of death and disease to profit from their illegal activities.

Thirdly, it was reported what QMS are doing to stay ahead of ASF.

However, let us not forget the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) epidemic of 2001 which brought about the banning of feeding swill to pigs. It was an epidemic that the Blair government of the day used, I believe, very successfully to turn the tables on how the general public started to see farmers, and it has only been really since 2001 that farmers have been seen as the villains of the community.

A time when subsidising primary food production is increasingly being brought into question. Lost is the recognition that only a quarter of one penny in every pound paid in tax is used to subsidize the cheapest food in Europe, and represents probably the best economic return to the Chancellor on any of our taxes he spends.

Blair and his cronies were quick to tell the world that it cost the tax payer £9 billion to ‘clean up the farmer’s mess’, but at no time has it ever been brought to the attention of the tax payer that a country that until 2001 had been clear of FMD for 33 years, can only have had it appear if it had arrived in meat that had been imported from a country with FMD and therefore was by definition illegally imported meat that arrived solely due to NOT being checked at the border.

It would be dreadful if ASF did arrive in the UK due to lack of border checks, but totally devastating to the entire rural economy if we saw FMD return yet again in imported meat. (I believe the 1967/68 outbreak was traced back to lamb imported from Argentina).

Let us not forget the danger to human health, not previously mentioned, it is quite feasible for Ebola to arrive in bushmeat harbouring the disease, which according to the World Health Organization has had fatality rates varying from 25% to 90%.

I believe it is incumbent on our political masters to act decisively and act quickly as surely they have a moral duty to ensure that both humans and our animals are protected from disease arriving in illegal meat imports. I also believe the perpetrators who peddle their illegal wares are treated with undue leniency when, or if, they are finally brought to justice, we need a meaningful deterrent to stop them in their tracks.

Andrew Connan is right Border controls are indeed woeful.

Hamish Waugh, Effgill