The Foot and Mouth Crisis in Britain -

The FMD crisis has devastated the very farmers we want to keep in this country: the small farmer and the hill farmer who knows the land and his animals and cares for them. The crisis is being used to remove them while the big agri-business farmers are the ones favoured by Lord Haskins. Small farmers need to know their rights - and they are not helped by the unelected executive of the NFU, who appear intent on their own agenda. Cumbrian vets are very unhappy about government policy and have written to the Government to express concern that they are being asked to order the slaughter of animals that do not need to be killed in order to contain the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The RCVS has unambiguously called for an independent inquiryonce the outbreak is over, modelled on the Northumberland report into the 1967/68 outbreak.

More on vaccination on this site

Anyone who still thinks that the present policy is right and is helping farmers, PLEASE look at the mass of evidence, just out of sight of the public, that shows the catastrophe is not the disease itself but the extraordinary policies being imposed by MAFF and the newly formed DEFRA

We want an end to foot-and-mouth - Labour wants an end to British farming

(September 2001)

September 4th

Earlier contents of this page (remember that this website has been operating since very early on in the outbreak and has been updated every day - but the facts remain as they did from the beginning)


The Media do not seem really concerned about the handling of FMD; is this site necessary?

Yes. Widespread killing of healthy animals - now about one in five of the national herd -is quietly being carried out. Why - when they neither have nor carry the disease? On Thursday 24th May, with no new cases recorded, slaughtermen killed 79,000 livestock, most of them showing no signs of the disease. This compares with a daily average of 33,000 two months ago at the peak of the epidemic. ..

Concerns are growing about the reasons for this virtual wiping out of many small farms.

Concerns are growing too about cruelty to animals. A dossier detailing appalling treatment is to be passed to the government by animal welfare investigators. Mr Blair may be smiling widely and talking of the "right decisions" but in North Yorkshire and Cumbria and many other places there are still thousands of cloven hooved pets and stock animals under threat- the utter misery goes on.

The "outbreak is under control" refers only to a specific definition of "under control". It does NOT mean that killing has stopped. Unfortunately, there are powerful people in whose interests it would be if the majority of the public continued to show no interest while the rural community continues to feel such fear that they do exactly what they are told.

Isn't culling a painful but necessary measure?

Not in the way it is being done. Top experts in the disease have written that the so-called "contiguous cull" is misguided and based on faulty data (see below). Unfortunately, there are only a few experts in FMD and there is widespread ignorance in the Ministry and in the government. And their own advisers have no veterinary background. At last the whistle is being blown on culling by vets sickened by having to sign that a farm is infected when they know that the animals are healthy. (See Inbox and latest news) "Slaughtering out", as David King and now others like to put it, is a political expedient. In our civilised society it is also a Dark Ages solution with all the terror, violence and blood conjured up in that the phrase . Foot and Mouth disease is far more prevalent since the 1991 ban on vaccination in Europe - but we have the civilised means to avoid killing thousands of animals - the bodies of whom then have to be disposed of - in this extraordinary "blunt instrument" way. The persuasive and scientifically sound arguments for vaccination have been ignored - but they won't go away.
Do we need to be so terrified of "Carriers"?

Tomorrow's World May 2 suggested that hand-held kits for testing may be available one day. Of what use can they be?

There is already a validated blood test successfully applied to the eradication of an epidemic of the same strain in Korea in 2000. Hand-held kits are also produced by UBI Pharmaceuticals in New York State, USA. They have been offered freely in quantities of 10,000. (See Green Party Press Release - Today's News left menu) and have been the subject of very recent questions in Parliament and were indeed shown on Tomorrow's World on Wednesday May 2nd. We already have hand-held testing kits in this country - tested in France as 100% effective, trialled in Wales unofficially and now being evaluated also at Pirbright - that show accurate positive and negative results in ten minutes. No healthy animals need die.

Intervet announces new test for FMD april 2001

See below Contact Richard Lawson of the Green Party if you want to obtain a kit to try out. Send e-mail to Dr Richard Lawson

But if animals within a 3 km area are not all killed won't they infect all others - a domino effect?

Sheep can pass the disease on to each other if they are in close proximity through nasal saliva. But the virus although windborne to an certain extent cannot hop about in the sort of distances suggested. It isn't an inert dust particle. "Contiguous" used to mean right next to. Now it seems to mean any farm within a 3 km radius. This view is supported by what Dr Paul Kitching says in a leaked memo from a Pirbright meeting on April 20th. see memo extract The virus load is what matters. Ring vaccination would certainly reduce that See below

The real farmers, and notably the "Unity" group in Wales, know that this cull is unnecessary and morally wrong. Unity's aim has been simple: "to minimise the loss of animal life and the attendant human distress". No political axe to grind or tub thumping and no rage. They have successfully stopped (not merely delayed) the threat of culling at 50 farms by quiet persuasion or legal challenge. Interestingly, it was the Unity group that trialled the Genesis Diagnostics kit, mentioned above.

What if animals were vaccinated. Wouldn't they go on being carriers?

Many people are beginning to think that -since the disease is only very rarely a killer - and is especially mild in sheep - it would better to let it pass naturally through the national flock and let them get it and go on to develop antibodies. Rather like children and mumps. Its demonisation is not justified on any grounds other than financial. And it doesn't hurt humans ( unless perhaps they are one of the Slaughterers who is in the way when a decomposing cow falls out of the back of a truck and explodes.) See, for example Newcastle Herald May 3

Are there not insuperable difficulties with vaccines? Availability? Effectiveness? Cost?

There is plentiful vaccine to immunise animals at risk. The Pirbright vaccine is strong and does not need to be repeated ; there are 500 000 doses available. Even if European vaccine were used- which does require a booster at 28 days - Bayer AG pharmaceuticals have offered to produce 1 million doses every 5 days. When the cost of the handling of the outbreak is looked at - and it has already been estimated at £20 billion - the cost of vaccine would pale to insignificance.

But how will they be able to tell which animals are carrying the disease if vaccinated animals carry antibodies?

There is now - according to Prof Brown, an accurate way to differentiate between the blood of animals with active virus (showing disease) and those where the virus is dead ( indicating vaccination) Prof Brown's notes

the science of the vaccine explained

Additional note taken from

The European policy of non-vaccination has the objective of creating a European herd which is without evidence of antibodies to FMD virus, since the latter might indicate animals which carry infection after exposure. Since antibodies can also arise from vaccination, very considerable effort has been made in the 1990s to develop tests that distinguish antibodies resulting from those from infection. At least 5 different tests have been developed and validated (an entire European Union funded Concerted Action was devoted to this-research summarised in 14 papers in the supplement of the Vet Quarterly, 1998, 20, suppl 2) and these now transform our ability to distinguish vaccinated animals which have not met the infection,

But wouldn't people be up in arms if their food was contaminated with chemicals?

The current objection that "consumers would object" from such companies as Nestle and Cadbury is cynical in the extreme. Imported Argentinian beef already has the vaccine in it! Farmed animals are already injected with a cocktail of about 30 vaccines. While this may well be thought deplorable, the meat and dairy products have long been deemed safe for human consumption.

If all this is so - then why have farmers so strongly resisted vaccination?

"Farmers" is a very blanket description for those who work in agriculture or keep animals. The NFU executive, not an elected body at all, does not appear to represent those many farmers who care for their animals and for the land rather than merely regarding such things as money-making products. Agribusiness is concerned about money not Nature. A vaccinated animal is not as valuable as a culled and compensated-for animal. And it is only around half the value of a non-vaccinated animal in the international markets. The powerful food lobby wants Britain to keep its highly valuable FMD-free status. Under present regulations - ( ironically persuaded through the EU by Britain herself in 1991) - vaccine is not permitted in so-called "FMD free zone where vaccination is not practised" . However, in the present uncertain climate, the EU HAS given permission for use of vaccine. Having proposed the halting of routine vaccination in Europe ten years ago, Britain may well have felt an embarrassment in changing sides.

Why have there been these extraordinary cases of pet sheep, llamas, alpacas and pigs snatched away and rare breeds killed, often in very upsetting circumstances.

The policy seems to have been largely based on that in 1967, when few people had pet camelids or rare breeds and public opposition was minimal. Cattle were then at the centre of the outbreak; this strain of the disease affects sheepreact differentlyNowadays, with the greater degree of public awarness, people are sickened by the widespread killing happening behind tall fences and gates. Literally sickened too by the stench of disposal. However, it seems as though an all or nothing approach was called for. Officials already convinced by the arguments of the NFU lobby, the Chief Scientist, David King, and Chief Vet, Jim Scudamore needed to be sure of what to do - not given the flexibility to dither

Hasn't the policy of culling at least been successful in controlling the disease? The numbers are dropping all the time we hear. People are always saying things like, "It's nearly over but we mustn't drop our guard"

The political advantage of seeing numbers of cases decrease and stop round about June 1st are obvious - Tony Blair and others talk in the imagery of a war campaign an example is May 3 Mirror - while the rest of us are pale with stress and anxiety like soldiers appalled in the face of death and stench. However - as for the dropping numbers - Paul Kitching points out that the crisis passed its peak some time ago and cases would have been dropping anyway without any intervention from culling ( or even knowledge of an impending general Election) : extract from memo

One or two cases that have been in the media have been granted dispensation. How can that be thought logical even if it is humane?

Intervention in individual cases has avoided widespread public outcry. Logic is left to one side for political expediency if the eyes of the press are there. How could any politician afford to be widely known as Phoenix's murderer?
Consideration for rare breeds, however, seems to stem from the recommendations of the OIE ((World Organisation for Animal Health) Conference in Paris on April 17/18 2001 which met to "consider current foot and mouth disease issues and draft science-based recommendations and resolutions be presented to the International Committee of the OIE at its May 2001 General Session.." Very soon. The recommendation states:

This would account for the government u-turn on rare breeds. Of small comfort to those rare breed owners who lost their stock before the conference. Of small comfort too to those who are told in so many words: "Your rare breeds can live as long as you keep them behind locked gates forever - but any non rare stock living within the same group will be singled out for slaughter." It is all to do with maintaining "vaccine-free FMD-free status" - these little pockets of vaccinated animals are going to be allowed because they'll be , instead, in an "FMD free zone where vaccination is practised" . There they will be in their little zones while the rest of the country can go on trading as an FMD free state.

Small pockets of outcry at the brutality of the cull can usually be silenced by legal-sounding threats and even the presence of armed police (as reported on May 2nd). Most people in this crisis, however, knowing nothing of the desire of the meat traders to keep our "vaccine-free FMD free" status have meekly gone along with the cull either because they want the compensation or because - in the words of a good, kind, brave couple in Dumfries, "we are not prepared to put up a fight if it means putting our neighbours' farms at risk." With such heartbreaking goodness, the officials have nothing more to do than merely show up.

As we know, they often take days and even weeks to do so.

Meanwhile the owners wait in anguish. And on it goes today, yesterday and tomorrow.

But look, is it really worth making a fuss? Don't the government's own advisers know better than we do?

Something very horrible is happening -needlessly -in Britain. Most people are happier not thinking about it. It is most certainly worth making a fuss. But in the face of growing criticism officials become more and more tight-lipped and implacable - and victims more and more bewildered. In such circumstances it is all too easy to stand back and give in. Now is the very time to go on asking questions and expecting proper answers, to talk in person to MPs and to anyone at all of any influence who might be able to influence this policy. In view of the Carolyn Hoffe case, we should certainly question how the law and its law enforcement officers have been used in this crisis. By what legal authority was the enforcement of precautionary culling carried out? How was it permissable to break down her door?

So what should happen now?

The policy of culling healthy animals should stop immediately. Where cases of Foot and Mouth are really positively confirmed healthy stock must be blood tested to assess the risk. Only those with the virus should be destroyed -( although a far kinder approach in a less greedy world would be to let the disease run its course - certainly in sheep.)


The handling of the crisis is partly to do with the protection of Britain's highly valuable status as an "FMD zone where vaccination is not practised" ; the FMD free status for the export market.

It is also very timely for those who wish to see a vast reduction in stock and those who would like to see small farmers bow out. There are many powerful people who want to restructure British agriculture in favour of big agribusiness.

It is also possible that, since Britain was so vociferous about Europe abandoning vaccination at the 1991in Strasbourg, it would have seemed too great a climb down to admit the need for vaccination now.

FMD free status is so valuable to the powerful farming lobby and the food industry.

Whatever the cause of the disease see origins - all the apparent confusion, the apparent illogicality, the delays in decision making and all the animal and human misery - all can be traced back to powerful vested interests.

Even if this motive had been made plain right from the start we need STILL not have lost the very large part of these 8 million animals. Sheep do not generally catch the disease from airborne particles - their lungs are 17 times less strong than those of cattle. Risk assessment could have been done and can still be done. without further culls of healthy stock. We do have the means.

But Britain had "too many sheep", it seems.

The tragedy is that so many animals have been killed and so many individual lives blighted to satisfy those who represent only their own profiteering interests. The whole sorry story has been imposed by people who have long since lost sight of the real things in life.

Martin Bell, on Question Time in early May, said that in the face of what is happening he was ashamed of being a human being. There are a growing number of us that feel the same.


Fax your MP This is quick, automatic and free and you don't need a fax machine. Even if you have forgotten who it is - All you need is your postcode - (But it is suspended in the run up to the election, unfortunately).

This website is being set up to give guidance to those wishing to halt the destruction of healthy animals in Britain.

Any farmer who wishes to resist the cull has to say to the would-be killers (and/or fax the local MAFF office) the words "I wish to exercise my right to appeal".

Owners of Healthy Animals May Resist Their Slaughter

Although it seems as though members of the public are not allowed to test or vaccinate their own animals without veterinary supervision... I include the following anyway and will try to get some advice about both

Vaccine! I hope this link might help clarify the vaccine issue at least.

Test Kits

Tests are available for purchase and cost £350 +VAT for 50 tests.
Maff is "too busy" to investigate these - but they might help your case.
Genesis Diagnostics : Tel 01353 862220
Fax 01353 863330

The test itself

Successfully field tested in Wales. April 24


Part of the Pirbright memo

The other aspect which is worth noting is that as sheep are the least infective of cattle sheep and pigs, and that by quite a considerable margin, there is a relatively low risk of sheep infecting cattle at this stage in the progression of the disease and that risk can be even further reduced by carrying out a proper Risk Assessment (a concept advocated and developed by the SVS) on farms where sheep and cattle have normally been farmed together. It becomes clear that this strategy of establishing when sheep might have had any dangerous contact and working with an enlightened veterinary surgeon developing an individual farm least risk policy under regular surveillance might provide a sensible means of making progress.

(summarised from a posting by Hugo Charlton, Barrister at Law).

Professor Brown's note to the Countess Mar

Dear Margaret,

if you are going to pursue your interest in foot-and-mouth disease, here are a few facts you may wish to consider.

1. Infected animals can be distinguished from vaccinated animals by a simple test of their blood -- see the reprint I sent to you.

2. If a vaccinated animal becomes infected it can be identified by the test described in 1.

3. If the animals in 2. become infected and then become carrier animals it is extremely unlikely that they would pass on the virus to other animals. Many attempts to infect naive animals by bringing them into contact with carrier animals have failed. There is, as far as I know, just one reported case.

If it is decided to ring vaccinate, this would reduce the virus load enormously. In addition it would be ludicrous to slaughter the vaccinated animals subsequently.

All the rules about moving animals following vaccination are based on the information available before differential diagnostic tests had been devised. These rules need serious debate.

All good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Fred Brown, FRS

The science of the vaccine that can distinguish between diseased or vaccinated animals

extract from "Agricultural Research Magazine Dec 1995 (sic) by Sandy Miller Hays ARS

An ARS microbiologist with a lifetime of experience studying FMD, Brown worked with APHIS' Juan Lubroth to pinpoint a protein in the FMD virus that's present in the virus' early days of self-reproduction, but not in the final virus particle. "We can grow the virus in tissue culture, and this particular protein stays behind in the culture cells when you extract the virus," explains Brown. "So you can make a vaccine from that virus, inject it into livestock, and the animals' immune systems won't make antibodies against that particular protein because it wasn't present in the vaccine. "But if an animal has been infected with FMD virus, that protein will have been present, and you will find antibodies against it in the blood. So, to differentiate between an animal that's been vaccinated and one that was actually infected with FMD virus, you could run tests to check for antibodies against that indicator protein."

United States Department of Agriculture,

Plum Island Animal Disease Center,

Greenport, NY


Website begun on Monday 30th April


Key findings from the Report of the Committee of Inquiry On Foot-and-Mouth Disease in 1968 (sometimes referred to as the Northampton Report on FMD)

In several places the Committee also reported on the carrier status of animals "the consensus of opinion among our scientific witnesses was that the danger of carrier animals had been exaggerated and that carriers in a susceptible population did not constitute a significant risk". This was supported by the EU Commission for the Control FMD at the time "only in exceptional cases are recovered animals able to transmit.... therefore would seem to play a very small role in the epizootiology of the desease".

Referring to the Danish ring vaccination at the time the Report stressed "The importance of the Danish experience is that no problem has arisen as a result of releasing cattle from within the vaccinated area and allowing them to mix with susceptible animals in other parts of Denmark. The report confirmed "Deer may also become infected naturally as well as acting as mechanical carriers, but they have not been associated with any outbreaks in Great Britain in this century".