The Spectre of Foot-and Mouth Returns

If you have been following the news in the past few days it won?t have escaped you that Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has returned to the UK after being discovered in two farms in Surrey.The blanket ban introduced during the 2001 outbreak devastated outdoor tourism in the UK and was seen by many as unjustified. Personally, I can recall that walking, driving or cycling along the roads in the Peak District was allowed but stepping off the road to climb on a crag, only a few meters away, could result in a £5000 fine. The illogical aspect to all this, was that the sheep where roaming freely on the roads and by the crags.The numbers say it all really. The last outbreak cost the UK tax payer approximately £8-9bn and 7 million animals were slaughtered. Agriculture in the UK is estimated to contribute £5.6bn to the UK economy each year. However, tourism contributes circa £15bn and supports about 400,000 jobs. The Countryside Agency reckoned the 2001 FMD outbreak cost the economy between £2-3bn in lost tourism revenue. In contrast UK agriculture receives between £2-3bn in subsidies each year. 80% of country parks, 90% of farms and over 30% of historic properties not to mention practically all the open countryside were closed to visitors during the 2001 outbreak. The result? A totally devastated rural economy. Anne Milton, a Conservative MP, is already warning that countryside may need to shut down again, “Shutting down the countryside has a huge impact on tourism, and we are right at the start of the summer holidays,” she said. “But there should be no hesitation to do what needs to be done.”Lets keep our fingers crossed that this an isolated outbreak and hope that if it becomes more serious then we won?t see the same draconian and pointless measures banning access…

The craziness of it all? YES you could ski in the Cairngorms but NO you couldn?t walk or climb there. I recall the reason being that climbers were more likely to come into close contact with reindeer!

What Can I do about it? How about writing to your local MP to raise your concerns. Below is a form letter from the Outdoor Industry Association: Find your MP here: DearFoot & Mouth Disease must have a far better and more co-ordinated approach It is with real concern that the outdoor leisure sector received the news that Foot & Mouth Disease has once again been detected in the UK.  The knee-jerk reaction to the FMD outbreak in 2001 is still fresh in the minds of many people and businesses that rely on the outdoors to make their living.  The blanket closure of vast swathes of the UK countryside very nearly bankrupted the tourism and rural economies and the knock-on effect to the outdoor leisure sector was felt equally as hard with many businesses going under. I would strongly urge the Government to consider the lessons learnt from the last outbreak before ?shutting down? the countryside.  The cost to the tourism/outdoor sector was clearly well in excess of that incurred in farming, and it is abundantly clear that the actions taken in 2001 were wholly ineffective at combating the spread of the disease. The tourism/outdoor sector lost in excess of £8 billion in 2001/02 with the consequent loss of many jobs and businesses, without the compensation afforded to the farming sector.  With tourism/outdoors only recently ?back on their feet? and a recognised primary earning sector for the UK economy, this country cannot afford another crisis like that created by the response to FMD in 2001. I am writing to ask that you make urgent representations to this Government to ensure that this latest outbreak is contained and dealt with effectively and that the outdoor leisure industry is not an after-thought victim of complacency, mis-information and confusion. Yours sincerely Extract from a 2002 EU report on the FMD crisis??.. The report is the first to come from a year-long inquiry in which a cross-party panel of MEPs has been taking evidence to assess the government´s response to the disease and how to handle any future outbreaks.Caroline Lucas, the inquiry´s vice president and a Green party MEP for south-east England, said: “The report is a damning indictment of the way the government responded to the crisis.”The British government opposed the inquiry, just as it opposed any public inquiry into the outbreak at a domestic level, but I hope it will listen and learn.” Neil Parish, a member of the temporary committee and the Conservatives´ agriculture spokesman in the European parliament, said: “This report represents explosive evidence that the government got it wrong with the foot and mouth crisis. “The draft conclusions couldn´t be clearer. They got it wrong and our farmers have had to pay the price for their failure.” The inquiry is continuing and the final report will be published after further proposals from committee members. However it has no legal force and its recommendations are not binding. The author of the “working document”, Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler, strongly criticises the government for not having contingency plans ready for a “serious and extensive” outbreak of foot and mouth.The government´s plans – that complied with EU criteria for tackling foot and mouth disease – were based on the assumption that the spread of the disease would remain localised with no more than 10 outbreaks.  In the end, the scale of the February 2001 outbreak contained 12 “mini epidemics” and was unprecedented in the history of the disease. Two years earlier a report from the government veterinary service had warned of shortcomings in the preparations for any outbreak.”Hardly anything had been done to implement the recommendations for remedying the shortcomings before the crisis arose,” said Mr Kreissl-Dorfler.”Although in July 2000 the head of the state veterinary service expressed extreme concern about the state of preparations, particularly with regard to slaughter, disposal of animal carcasses, staff training and the availability of up to date contingency plans. “In retrospect, an immediate nationwide ban on transporting FMD susceptible animals would have been appropriate,” he said. But this would have been considered “disproportionate” at the time by large sections of the population. Furthermore, the epidemic broke out when the ministry of agriculture was being restructured, making it more difficult to combat the epidemic in a coordinated manner, said Mr Kreissl-Dorfler. “Hundreds of foreign vets had to be deployed, which led to confusion and uncertainty among farmers, partly on account of linguistic communication problems.”Information for local bodies and farmers was poor and advice from government departments was repeatedly altered, inconsistent or even contradictory, said the document.”These shortcomings and the sometimes inadequate information policy caused considerable stress among those concerned, many of whom were still suffering psychologically as a result months after the crisis.” Sources and Further Reading Costly Memories of Foot-and-Mouth Rural Economy Braced for Setback National Statistics