Te Radar: Where there's smoke there's either a load of bull or beef

Far be it from me to trivialise, or indeed to praise, the deeds of the alleged anti-bovine terrorist, but didn't the actions of the supposed hoaxer really do the nation a wealth of good?

What was truly shocking about the purported outbreak of foot and mouth was that anyone found it shocking at all.

It was certainly revealing to see how the people who are tasked to deal with these situations actually coped, and I suspect that for many of the people involved they have probably never felt so important.

What the scare provided was a timely exposure of the weak and indecisive, the rash and blase. We would also have seen if there were enough latex gloves, swabs, needles and centrifuges to deal with a crisis of the biological type.

It has, however, raised a number of pertinent questions.

Given the possibility of public panic, was the Army warned to be prepared to mobilise? And what could they have done?

Would they have been bussed (drivers' strike permitting) to the hinterland to help stack the pyres of burning cattle carcasses?

Would the nation have had to swelter under a pall of beef smoke?

Would health groups have whined about the side-effects of this bovine burn-off, namely the associated rise in obesity, as people, unable to escape the aroma of barbecued beef, would constantly feel famished?

It was interesting to note that the letter that contained the threat was thoughtfully fast-posted. Clearly the perpetrator thought that the threat would be received sooner if it was posted than if it was simply phoned into the police.

It seems that what people don't realise about our 111 system is that the delays experienced by callers are in fact a deviously devised anti-terror scheme.

The theory is that anyone who rings to make a threat invariably gets sick of waiting, hangs up and goes off to do whatever it is that terrorists do when they aren't being mean-spirited.

It is also clear that we are a nation of hoaxers and alarmists, as evidenced by the number of false and non-urgent calls to the 111 system.

The problem seems to be the ambiguity over the definition of emergency. For some, an emergency constitutes being assaulted, raped or murdered, while for others an emergency seems to mean simply that it is raining.

Some have complained that the Government overreacted to the entire scare.

Given the potential seriousness of the event, I would have thought that any reaction short of lining people up against the wall and shooting them until someone revealed who did it would be entirely appropriate.

I imagine that if it was a prank, then someone is sitting around somewhere feeling rather foolish (and I am not referring only to George Hawkins).

If we learned anything from this plagued week, it's that hedgehogs are susceptible to the disease as well. For some reason I found this oddly reassuring.

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