2008 volume 40(7) pages 1552 – 1567
doi:10.1068/a4056

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Donaldson A, 2008, "Biosecurity after the event: risk politics and animal disease" Environment and Planning A 40(7) 1552 – 1567

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Biosecurity after the event: risk politics and animal disease

Andrew Donaldson

Received 16 March 2007; in revised form 6 November 2007

Abstract. This paper examines the politics of agricultural biosecurity in the UK, following the 2001 epidemic of foot and mouth disease. Biosecurity politics epitomise the ‘risk politics’ of animal disease, which acts antipolitically by focusing on problem-solving mechanisms and shutting down spaces for debate and dissent. By following biosecurity through three sites, various inconsistencies of this politics are described. On farms, biosecurity is seen as a routine and regulated practice that is more novel discursively than it is materially. In parliamentary and policy discourse, biosecurity is caught between a prescriptive regulatory logic tied to on-farm practices and a more open rhetorical construction which links it to a wider range of affairs of state (such as security, the national border, the public interest). At the science – policy interface, biosecurity politics enacts divisions not only between the roles of science and politics, but also between types of science. An event-based appreciation of risk and contingency highlights the need to unlock the problem-making potential inherent in these various inconsistencies and connections, a role which should be undertaken by social scientists working with others. The aim of this problem making should be a better constructed biosecurity through good biosecurity science.

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