What follows is an e-mail I sent to an Australian cousin who is involved in
advising farmers over there! I've left it as written and it includes both
that first article I received that mentions Willie Cleave and several from
British Dairying Magazine who also included an excerpt from Abigail Woods
University research. It was a relief to find a trade magazine that you would
have expected to follow the NFU or government policy, publishing some
controversial stuff, especially since the dairy trade seems to have had the
greatest influence in suppressing vaccination.
Its a long read so make yourself comfortable.
Sent: 22 March 2001 12:34
Subject: The UK Foot & Mouth Fiasco
22nd March 2001
Knowing your involvement with the Aussie farming community, I thought you
might like to see what a mess the UK government (past and present) have made
of the crisis. Most of these articles were in a trade magazine we got last
week (17th March) plus one from last weeks Mail on Sunday. Australia gets a
couple of mentions for being the sensible example to follow.
Since they found FMD in Holland and have immediately vaccinated the effected
animals before sending them to be slaughtered one wonders why they are not
doing that over here. A representative from The Soil Association (the
governing body for Organic Production) have made this suggestion, pointing
out that, contrary to government or Ministry (MAFF) excuses that we would
not be able to distinguish between vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals, it
is a simple matter to test for antibodies. If they were present in an animal
it means they have either been vaccinated or been in contact with the
disease. It puzzled me from the first week why EU countries having thought
they had infected animals, reported that they only had the antibodies and
were allowed to continue. No surprise then that Holland suddenly gets it
An article in a local paper and a MAFF representative trying to excuse the
lack of disinfectant mats on any approach roads on to Dartmoor last week,
both said that they do not work. During the 1960's outbreak they would spray
under each car. The guy from MAFF said that "... anyway the friction
the car tyre and the road will destroy the virus". Another said only
scrubbing the tyres in disinfectant would work. Who is right?
We are still clear but infected farms are getting horribly close and it
doesn't do the nerves much good. I'll send a newsy letter to everyone when I
unwind a bit a stop wanting to hit something because of the stupidity of
various authorities. Any space left in Australia for some ageing immigrants?
From the editor of British Dairying - March 2001 Vol7 No.5
Most of the UK farming industry was collectively holding its breath as
British Dairying went to press some ten days before you will be reading
this. Twenty cases of foot-and-mouth disease were discovered in the first
week, from the first confirmation, on February 21, and about 10 cases
were confirmed in the second week. By comparison, the worst FMD outbreak in
the UK of the 20th century, in 1967-68, there were 23 outbreaks in the first
week, 104 in the second week, rising to a peak of 490 cases in the fifth
week. But officials were already rejecting any comparison with the 1967-68
disaster. They said detection methods had hugely improved since the 1960s,
and Ministry of Agriculture officials and vets seemed remarkably confident
that this outbreak could be quickly confined, despite the fact that it seems
certain that the disease had remained undetected on the prime source, the
pig farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland, for several days, and
possibly weeks. By the end of the second week, ministry vets were saying
that all detected outbreaks to that time could be traced back to the
original source. One senior ministry official said: "So far, we can say
we have not been surprised by the sequence of events.
To some official surprise, the current crisis has mainly affected sheep.
Pigs, which are believed to be the worst spreaders of the disease, have not
been affected as much as might have been expected. Cattle, certainly dairy
cattle, have been very little affected to date. A major plus here is that
the vast majority of dairy cows are still inside. As British Dairying went
to press, there were reports of FMD antibodies being found on several farms
in France, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Denmark. Unlike in previous UK
outbreaks (there is now documentary evidence that the Ministry of
Agriculture were close to switching to vaccination 1968), there has been no
serious discussion yet of vaccination being used this time. But if the
infection was to spread across Europe, vaccination would become a serious
option; use of FMD vaccination was only banned in the EU in 1991, and it had
been widely used in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The EU Commission have told
the UK that they had 8.5m vaccines for the Type O FMD available if
necessary, but said this would obviously be a 'last resort'.
Immediate economic consequences of the crisis included a ban on meat and
livestock exports, and serious disruption to dairy trade despite an EU
directive that dairy products made from milk pasteurised to 72"C for
were 'safe'. Ireland banned all milk and dairy product imports from the UK,
one result of which was a serious surplus of milk in Northern Ireland, and
widespread shipment of milk from the province to the mainland at prices of
16ppl and less. UK dairy product and milk prices were seriously depressed by
International epidemic arrives in Britain
The UK is only the latest in a rapidly lengthening list of countries to be
hit by what the International Institute for Animal Health is already calling
a 'pandemic' of the extremely virulent serotype FMDV-O. This strain of
foot-and-mouth disease, now called 'Pan-Asia' was first identified in north
india in 1990. It quickly spread west into Saudi Arabia and throughout the
Middle East and then into eastern Europe; Georgia, Turkey (where it was
controlled by vaccine provided by the European Union), Bulgaria and Greece
(where the outbreak of the disease last year appears to have been
effectively controlled by slaughter of several thousand animals). It was
found in Nepal in 1993 and later in Bangladesh. It was reported in China and
Tibet in 1999 and most of southern Asia. More recently it has been found in
Korea, Japan, eastern Russia and Mongolia--some areas of which had been free
of FMD for close to 100 years. It struck in KwaZulu province of South Africa
last year, the first time FMD had appeared in the region for 44 years and
vaccination was used. And now it has been identified in Latin America.
Ironically Argentina was declared free from FMD in August 2000, and some
Argentinian officials have recently denied that the country now has the O
strain of FMD, even though it is widely reported that millions of cattle are
being vaccinated in the north of the country, and last month Argentina had
their 'FMD-free country where vaccination is not practised' status suspended
by the OIE (Office International des Epizooties). And last year, type O FMD
was identified in Brazil and Uruguay.
FMD slaughter policy has a chequered history - Barry Wilson.
British Dairying - March 2001 Vol7 No.5
The policy to slaughter all infected animals to control foot-and-mouth
disease was not installed until just after the First World War even though
the disease had been fairly common in the country since the early 1840s. The
policy was largely the result of the major outbreak of the much more lethal
'Cattle Plague' between 1865-67 which was ultimately controlled by a mass
The first major outbreak of FMD in the UK was in the early 1870s when there
was a total of some 80,000 outbreaks. There was another major outbreak of
the disease in the early 1880s when, over a period of five years, there was
a total of 40,000 outbreaks. As a direct result, in 1884, a form of
compulsory slaughter--Foot-and-Mouth Disease (Slaughter Order) 1884 - was
introduced, but as compensation to farmer had to be paid by local
authorities, it was not rigorously enforced.
With half a dozen very small exceptions, the disease then virtually
disappeared for nearly 30 years. However, there was a major outbreak in
1912, at which time a rigorous compulsory slaughter policy was enforced and
over 10,000 animals were destroyed.
The disease was then dormant for nearly another ten years, until 1919, when
the longest prolonged outbreak occurred in which 350,000 animals were
slaughtered over a ten-year period, peaking at 123,000 in 1923. Throughout
this epidemic, the compulsory slaughter policy came under continued, intense
political debate. The official line was always that slaughter was necessary
for economic reasons, to preserve exports--which at that time consisted of
little other than pedigree livestock. As previously, it was the bigger
farmers who supported the slaughter policy and many of the smaller farmers
who opposed it. It was reported at the time that a meeting of farmers in
Cheshire came close to voting for direct action in their pursuit of a 'farm
isolation' policy instead of slaughter (vaccination was not an alternative
in those days).
But the UK slaughter policy was a failure as regards to the avowed aim of
the elimination of the disease. Between 1919 and 1962, there was not a
single year when FMD did not appear: the number of animals slaughtered
annualy slaughtered during these 43 years was never less than 1,000, and in
27 of these years, slaughterings topped 10,000. There was a welcome respite
from the disease between 1963 and 1966. But it was all too brief.
In these years after the First World War, the disease spread to much of the
rest of Europe, and it was during this period that Britain tried hard to get
everyone else in the world to adopt the compulsory slaughter policy.
However, during a major epidemic of FMD over much of Continental Europe in
the early 1950s, the Germans especially were keen to try their new vaccines
which, after many early technical difficulties, were effective in defeating
By the 1980s, with the disease virtually eliminated in Continental Europe,
vaccination was largely dropped, mainly on the grounds of expense. The EU
banned vaccination in 1991.
After the brief respite in the early 1960s, the worst UK FMD outbreak of the
20th century started at Oswestry on October 25, 1967. When it was over,
nearly eight months later, 429,600 stock on a total of 2,364 farms had been
slaughtered. Archive researchers say there is evidence that the UK
authorities were very close to switching to vaccination in 1968 when the
epidemic suddenly petered out.
Last week, the European Commission, curiously, said the EU banning of
vaccination against FMD in 1991 "had saved EU farmers over 1bn euros in
years" rather confirming that the prime consideration in coping with this
disease is economic.
Increasing numbers of countries are using vaccination against FMD--if they
can afford to.
As the prime begetter of the world's FMD compulsory slaughter policy, it is
very difficult to see the UK ever accepting vaccination--unless the present
crisis was to create an epidemic across Continental Europe, in which case,
vaccination would be almost inevitable-probably including the UK.
After BSE and now FMD again, Britain will find it difficult to restore its
reputation for animal health--a policy which has, over many decades, been
extremely expensive in terms of destroyed animals, government compensation
and wrecked family farming businesses.
Why Always mass slaughter - Abigail Woods
British Dairying - March 2001 Vol7 No.5
In their efforts to stamp out the current outbreak of foot-and-mouth
disease, the Ministry of Agriculture are applying measures that have changed
little in more than 100 years: all infected animals must be slaughtered. The
current outbreak has revived the memories of those who lived through the
1967-68 outbreak--the most devastating in British history. Yet that was
merely the latest in a long history of devastation wreaked by this disease,
which was rarely absent from its first recorded appearance in Britain in
1839. The rapid spread of FMD by frequently unidentified means and the
far-reaching consequences of the government's chosen control policy meant
that, for years--until supplanted by BSE-- FMD was widely regarded as the
most dangerous animal plague known.
But FMD is not a killer disease. Most strains cause only sporadic deaths
among young or sick animals; the vast majority suffer only lameness and loss
of appetite, usually recovering in two or three weeks. Nor does FMD have
many human health implications. Transfer to humans is rare and symptoms are
mild. Because of this, the slaughter policy in the past has stimulated
The government's justification for
slaughter is older than the policy itself.
It is based solely on the fact that recovered animals show a decline in meat
and milk productivity. Given its extreme contagiousness, officials say that
if the disease is permitted to spread freely, the economic losses
inflicted would outweigh the costs of eliminating
In addition, the occurrence of even a single case of FMD leads many
disease-free nations to place an immediate ban upon our valuable export
trade. Disease freedom is therefore a precondition of international trade,
and this could not be obtained through disease treatment or Flaccination.
The Agriculture Ministry therefore regards FMD primarily as an economic
problem, not an animal welfare or public health issue. But while the
productivity and export arguments may favour FMD elimination at the present
time of intensive farming and open EU trade, they do not explain the origin
of this policy nor its continuation throughout most of the 20th century.
It can be argued, indeed, that the slaughter policy has been
self-reinforcing, giving rise to the very agricultural and economic
conditions which justify its continuation.
Large-scale state control of livestock disease dates from the 1860s, by
which time FMD had been prevalent for more than 20 years. Slaughter, import
regulation and movement restriction were introduced to control the much more
lethal 'cattle plague', a new contagious disease which devastated the
national herd from 1865-67.
Because of the success of such measures, there was a movement for the
extension of controls to manage other prevailing contagious ailments,
including FMD, although there was strong opposition to this because of
the widespread belief that FMD was an extremely mild and inconsequential
disease very unlike cattle plague. But this view was successfully countered
by influential and wealthy animal breeders who wanted to protect their
export trade. This 'protection of exports' has always been a prime reason
for compulsory slaughter even though, when it was introduced nearly 90 years
ago, there was little farming exports by the UK-except for pedigree
livestock. It was not until after the second world war that farm export
trade expanded. By this time, a new emphasis on agricultural productivity
which favoured intensive farming methods gave further justification to
strict FMD controls. The fact that many nations were now disease-free and
imposed export bans on infected countries was, in itself, a direct result of
British action to compulsorily slaughter. In setting up the European
Commission on FMD in 1954, Britain successfully encouraged other countries
to adopt similar FMD controls. The existence of reciprocal export bans
thereby reinforced the ministry's position on the need to eliminate the
disease rather than simply control it. Using arguments of productivity and
the export trade, the ministry has repeatedly refused to contemplate
alternative FMD controls. However, this reliance upon such primitive
measures has drawn frequent criticism, as huge scientific advances in
disease control developed during the late 19th and 20th century have
seemingly passed FMD by. If it never intended to diversify FMD controls, why
did the UK government pour #millions into a FMD research institute, with the
express aim of making FMD less harmful to Britain? In 1952, FMD spread
through out Europe, where it was combated using newly-developed vaccines.
MAFF refused to consider such a step, despite rampant disease in Britain.
fact, vaccine research and production did occur in Britain, but only as a
result of the Second World War, when the ministry feared that a shortage of
meat would necessitate vaccination.
This story of FMD explodes the myth that the biological features of a
disease automatically inform its 'correct' management. It also reveals the
diversity of economic arguments used to support slaughter--not all of which
are openly acknowledged to the public. In response to the present outbreak,
the government, as in the past, will undoubtedly explain FMD slaughter in
terms of productivity and the export market, and in economic terms their
arguments will probably be justified.
But these reasons have effectiviely been 'created' over time--in part, to
provide additional justification for an always-questionable policy.This is
an extract from an article by Abigail Woods, a vet who is researching the
history of FMD at Manchester University under a grant from the Welcome
Trust, published in the Guardian, February 28th -- by permission.
Time for a steady nerve - Duncan Clarke
British Dairying - March 2001 Vol7 No.5
At the risk of annoying the editor, I have delayed writing this article
until 7am Monday 5th March 2001, in order that I can be as up to date on the
foot and mouth outbreak as:possible.
Since the turn of year there have been the first signs of recovery for UK
farming following disasters of salmonella, BSE and swine fever. The euro
started to strengthen, exports started to increase, the Everything but Arms
proposal was officially shelved for five years and milk production started
For the week ending February 17 2001, UK dairy farmers produced more milk
than they had in the corresponding week a year ago. Milk groups and
processors are touting for business and there is the distinct possibility of
a further price rise in the value of milk before the first of April of this
year. Not a boom scenario, but-nonethe-less signs of recovery and cause for
Then the sucker punch; an outbreak of foot-and-mouth! Prior to the outbreak
of the disease, there was a healthy trade in forward leasing quota at around
75p/kg (4%=3ppl) and quite a bit of interest in forward sales of quota.
Quota is still being offered, but at the end of last week there were no
enquiries to lease in, or purchase.
Confidence is the biggest factor in any market and as such there is
currently no market for forward trades of milk quota.
On Question Time last Thursday evening, Tim Yeo explained that we do not
vaccinate our animals against the disease, because by not vaccinating we can
prove that we are free of foot and mouth.
If we started to vaccinate, this would prohibit the export of livestock and
meat to countries that are free of foot and mouth and would cost this
country a huge amount of trade.
This may be true but why allow the import of meat into the UK from countries
where foot-and-mouth is endemic? Britain remains top of the world premier
league of all nation states for shooting itself in the foot.
We continue to allow the import of meat from Zimbabwe, despite the fact that
the War Veterans are, in the course of terrorising murdering white farmers,
spreading the incidence of the disease from infected to clear areas of that
There is one rule for countries within the EU whereby if there is an
outbreak of foot-and-mouth, all exports of meat and livestcock are
immediately banned and another for countries outside the Union.
Only 1 in 5 consignments of fresh meat arriving at British ports from
outside the EU are checked for health risks and since the advent of the free
market, no consignments are checked from destinations within the EU. It does
not need me to spell out the possibilities given common trade practices.
My wife is Australian and she and I, along with our family, visit
her :relatives in Tasmania on average once every two years. The Australian
economy is very largely dependent on agriculture as a major contributor to
that nations GDP and quite sensibly the Australians protect the health of
their industry quite rigorously.
Before arrival at any Australian port, cabin crew spray all passengers with
insecticide. On arrival there are large warning signs that anyone caught
importing foodstuffs or organic material without licence will be subject to
prosecution and a fine of up to $50,000.
If you declare on your immigration card that you have visited a farm in the
country of your departure, your baggage will automatically be searched and
if soil or other organic matter is found on your clothing they will either
be destroyed or cleaned by customs staff.
Compare this with the situation at British ports where passengers are not
supposed to import more than a kilo of meat and this is supposed to be
checked by Customs. In reality this does not happen.
Customs admit that the task of checking is beyond their resources.
In the Sunday Times I read with astonishment that the passengers on one
flight from Ghana were rigorously checked by Customs and MAFF officials to
reveal a total of 1.4 tonnes of fresh meat carried in passengers' luggage
from a country where foot-and-mouth is endemic!
It is miraculous that in the UK we don't have an outbreak of foot-and-mouth
every year. We live on an island and have the same opportunity to protect
the health status of our agriculture as the Australians do.
The outbreaks of swine fever and foot-and-mouth are almost certainly due to
the lax controls at our ports. Will our politicians ever learn?
Currently there are 70 confirmed outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and the next
week will be vital in assessing the likely progress of the disease. While
live-stock farmers stand on the edge of this abyss there will be very little
trade in quota.
The only positive message I can take from this latest disaster, is that for
the first time for many years the issue of farming incomes and the trading
relationship between farmers and supermarkets is at the centre of political
Indeed, President Blair may seek to hijack the issue by making it a
cornerstone of the Labour Party's election campaign. Beware the chameleon!
Duncan Clark rurns his own farm management business in Boston, Lincs.
FMD Takes me Back - Barry Wilson Comments
British Dairying - March 2001 Vol7 No.5
This foot-and-mouth disease crisis takes me back. I had just arrived in the
UK from Australia, and was scratching around to make a living as a freeIance
journalist, mainly writing for farming papers all over the world. In 1971,
there was a major FMD alert, with several suspected outbreaks. A scoop at
last! I promptly airmailed--there weren't faxes in those dim, distant
days--countless stories of the new British crisis all over the world, only
for it to turn out to be a false alarm several days later. I was
possibly--ignobly--the only person in the country to be disappointed!
Ten years later, in the early 1980s, when I played tennis at a club near
Cambridge, a colleague and friend at the club--who was one of the senior
vets at the Cambridge MAFF office, and who knew I was a journalist--told me
one day: "You farming journalists should make a big stink about the
darngcrous lunacy of Mrs. Thatcher's savage cuts to the State Veterinary
Service. I don't think we could cope with a major crisis, such as another
major outbreak of FMD. " Incidentally, I did write this story, and my
was carpeted in Whitehall and informed that the security services had
discovered his tennis cIub link with me! Fortunately, my friend was made of
stout stuff, and walked out screaming that he hadn't thought he lived and
worked in Communist Russia. Happily he was not condemned to the Gulag!
Quite how effectively the State Veterinary Service is coping with the
current crisis remains to be seen. But I do believe foreign vets are being
drafted in from far and wide.
--Years ago, reading a book on the history of British agriculture, I came
across a passage on the farming crisis of the 1890s. I think it was the
president of the NFU who sought a private interview with the then minister
for agriculture, who said: "I have to tell you quite frankly, it is our
policy to wind up British agriculture. " Well, they didn't quite succeed
then, but many British governments since, not excluding the present one,
have often given the impression that this was not out of the question. It is
probably true that agriculture has a lower political priority in the UK than
in almost any other country in the world. And this has led governments to be
careless, as though it doesn't matter. So isn't it beautifully ironic that
two of the biggest crises in the UK in the past ten years--BSE and FMD--have
involved farming. It was said some years ago that getting the agricultural
portfolio was one of the great graveyards in British politics. Yet in the
past ten years, agriculture has been one of the highest profile jobs in the
government. You'd think that, by now, the government would have got the
message that farming is very important. At the rnoment, the country is being
seen as an international pariah. My eldest son, who is currently living in
Australia-where they have never had FMD (yet!)--telIs me that there are two
queues for people arriving at Australian airports: (l) for the Brits and (2)
everyone else. The Brits are having all their baggage examined, shoes
washed, etc. Humiliation. The Aussies are enjoying every minute.
---FMD is almost sacrilegious, I'm finding. But there's a heck of a lot of
humbug. Okay, I can understand why the Irish are paranoid about FMD. But
calling off the Wales-Ireland rugby match! This is ludicrous tokenism. I
believe the London-to-Dublin air route is the busiest in Europe: are they
stopping these hundreds of visitors from going out into the country?
----How about getting things into perspective. Reading the Eurropean
Commission's 'Official Journal' dated February 28, 2001, 1 came across the
following: "According to Dir.72/462, a non-member country may continue to
considered as having been free of FMD for at least two years even if limited
number of oubreaks of the disease have been recorded on a limited part of
its territory, on condition that such outbreaks are stamped out within a
period of less than three months. Such guarantees have now been received,
therefore imports of meat from Swaziland may be resumed on March 1, 2001."
Good news for the Swazilanders. But it does seem to put some of the
draconian measures being taken by and against Britain look somewhat severe,
--TaIking to one of Britain's leading cattle breeders recently, I put this
question to him: "What is your view about vaccinating against FMD? "
said: "Like the rest of the industry, the Ministry of Agriculure, the NFU
and all right-thinking people, I wouId oppose vaccinaton tooth and nail.
Until it's introduced."
I always did think vaccination against disease was one of the great
achievements of human science.
Labour closed unit that could have halted the spread of virus
Simon Walters - Mail on Sunday 18th March 2001
A special unit set up to crack down on rogue sheep dealers - some of whom
are being blamed for spreading foot-and-mouth in Britain - was abolished by
the Blair government months after taking power.
Last night, as the number of confirmed cases in Britain reached 297, the
RSPCA said the decision to scrap the team of ten investigators in the
Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) was a major factor in a huge increase in trade
by a handful of dealers, some of them linked to the crisis.
And a senior Government source said MAFF experts believe the decision in
October 1997 to scrap the unit was a 'catastrophic mistake'.
The unit, based in the Ministry's Animal Health Division in Tolworth, Surrey,
was secretly abolished to save just £400,000 months after the election.
"The unit was very effective in curbing the activities of rogue
said Bryn Pass , a senior RSPCA investigator who has spent years in tracking
down sheep dealers accused of flouting the law.
"There is no question that its abolition is a major factor in the increase
in their trade. It has made it much harder to poice them."
Mr. Pass's claims were backed up by a MAFF insider who said:' The Government
scrapped it in a penny-pinching, cost saving drive, and we are now paying
The disclosure comes after the foot-and-mouth spotlight focused on dealers
such as Kevin Feakins, who runs a sheep transport business in Llancloudy,
Mr.Feakin, 48, has admitted he was responsible for exporting foot-and-mouth
to the Continent when he sold some sheep to a meat supplier, Jean Reboux, in
the South of France. Maff insiders are fiercely critical of Mr. Feakins and
another dealer, Willie Cleave, of Devon, who does business with Mr Feakins
and took infected sheep from Carlisle to Devon.
The Mail on Sunday can disclose Mr. Feakins was the dealer referred to
anonymously by the Countess of Mar in the Lords when she broke down in tears
in the Lords last week when she described the effect of foot-and-mouth on
her farm in Worcester.
Government sources say the main reason for foot-and-mouth spread so quickly
in Britain is because of a activities of a handful of sheep dealers, such as
Mr Feakins whose main business involves exports.
The MAFF unit to combat rogue animal exporters was set up in 1992 by Tory
Agriculture Minister William Waldegrave at the height of the furore over
live exports. The main reason was to stop them flouting animal welfare laws
that laid down strict standards.
As a result, the trade plummeted from two million sheep exports in 1992 to
just 48,000 in 1997 when it was abolished. Since then, it has increased to
After it was abolished, the trade flourished, with animnals sold to rogue
dealers in France and Holland, who transport them to Greece and even further
in terrible conditions.
The official said sheep were sometimes sold to Dutch, French & German meat
traders who then illegally relabelled the meat claiming it was high quality
and locally produced.
Industry insiders believe a rogue dealer brought the foot-and-mouth virus in
a dirty lorry.
P.S. From Adrian - Willy Cleave has been seen on local TV almost wringing his
hands with glee in anticipation of the compensation he will receive and
later on the radio he said he will be back in business in two weeks so he
can resume his business of supplying animals to the Muslim population of
Bristol and other towns. Last night a farmer in Wales asked (as have many
others) why cattle from Scotland have been brought down to his neighbourhood
to be slaughtered, passing about 13 abbatoirs on the way. Apparently
supermarkets insist on all their meat coming through the same abbatoir.
Makes yer blood boil don't it?