28 November 2002
on measures to control Foot and Mouth Disease in the European Union in 2001 and future measures to prevent and control animal diseases in the European Union
Part 1: Motion for a resolution
Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease
Rapporteur: Wolfgang Kreissl-Dvrfler
PROCEDURAL PAGE............................................................................................................. 4
MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION............................................................................................ 5
Explanatory statement ............................................................................. Part 2 - A5-0405/2002
At its sitting of 16 January 2002 the European Parliament decided, by virtue of the power conferred on it by Rule 150(2) of its Rules of Procedure, to set up a Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease.
At its constituent meeting of 21 February 2002 the Temporary Committee appointed Wolfgang Kreissl-Dvrfler rapporteur in accordance with its terms of reference.
The Temporary Committee considered the draft report at its meetings of 30 September, 10 October, 22 October, 7 November and 20 November 2002.
At the last meeting it adopted the motion for a resolution unanimously with 27 votes.
The following were present for the vote: Encarnacisn Redondo Jiminez, chairman; Jan Mulder, Albert Jan Maat and Caroline Lucas, vice-chairmen; Wolfgang Kreissl-Dvrfler, rapporteur; Reimer Bvge, Martin Callanan (for Marma del Pilar Ayuso Gonzalez), Dorette Corbey, Rijk van Dam (for Jeffrey William Titford), Avril Doyle, Jonathan Evans (for Arlindo Cunha), Anne Ferreira, Christel Fiebiger, Francesco Fiori, Georges Garot, Liam Hyland (for Sergio Berlato), Elisabeth Jeggle, Vincenzo Lavarra (for Antsnio Campos), Rosemarie M|ller, Neil Parish, Marit Paulsen (for Nicholas Clegg), Marma Rodrmguez Ramos, Agnes Schierhuber, Dominique F.C. Souchet, Robert William Sturdy, Phillip Whitehead and Eurig Wyn.
The explanatory statement is published separately (Part 2 - A5-0405/2002).
The report was tabled on 28 November 2002.
European Parliament resolution on measures to control Foot and Mouth Disease in the European Union in 2001 and future measures to prevent and control animal diseases in the European Union (2002/2153(INI))
The European Parliament,
- having regard to Rules 150(2), 154(1) and 160 of its Rules of Procedure and its decision of 16 January 2002 setting up a Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease,
- having regard to the hearings of its Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease and the visits by delegations from it to the areas most affected in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands,
- having regard to the reports by the Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission on inspection visits to the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and the Netherlands in connection with Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 DG (SANCO) 3318, 3323, 3324, 3331, 3333, 3338 and 3439 (2001),
- having regard to the following reports:
- ‘Foot and mouth disease: Lessons to be learned inquiry’: report of the inquiry panel chaired by Dr Iain Anderson CBE, London,
- ‘The 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease’, Report by the comptroller and auditor general, HC 939 Session 2001-2002: 21 June 2002, National Audit Office, London,
- ‘Infectious diseases in livestock’, Scientific questions relating to the transmission, prevention and control of epidemic outbreaks of infectious disease in livestock in Great Britain, Royal Society, London,
- ‘Foot and Mouth Disease in Scotland - The Scottish Executive Response’, Scottish Executive, March 2002,
- ‘Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease in Scotland July 2002’, Royal Society of Edinburgh, Edinburgh,
- Foot and Mouth Disease Controls: An assessment by the National Assembly for Wales,
- ‘Review of the handling of Foot and Mouth Disease in Wales February 2002’, Welsh Local Government Association, Cardiff,
- ‘Northumberland Foot and Mouth Disease Public Inquiry, Report of the Inquiry Panel’, inquiry panel chaired by Professor Michael Dower CBE, Northumberland County Council,
- ‘Foot and Mouth investigation: Learning the Lessons 2001/2002’, Gloucestershire County Council,
- ‘Crisis and Opportunity’, Devon Foot and Mouth Inquiry 2001, Final Report by Professor Ian Mercer CBE, published by Devon Books, Tiverton, Devon,
- ‘Inquiry Report: An Independent Public Inquiry into the Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic that occurred in Cumbria in 2001’, Cumbria Foot and Mouth Disease Inquiry published by Cumbria County Council 2002,
- ‘Foot and Mouth: Heart and Soul’, a collection of personal accounts of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Cumbria 2001, compiled and edited by Caz Graham, published by Small Sister for BBC Radio Cumbria, Cumbria, ISBN 0 954157 0 3,
- ‘MKZ 2001: De evaluatie van een crisis' ('FMD 2001: Evaluation of a crisis'), March 2002, B&A Groep Beleidsonderzoek & Advies bv, The Hague,
- ‘Veerkracht' ('Resilience’), Alterra report 539 by E.H. van Haaften and P.H. Kersten, commissioned by the Rural Areas and Agricultural Systems Innovation Network, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Alterra, Research Institute for the Green World, Wageningen,
- having regard to the 'Petitie, aangeboden door ondernemers uit de hippische sector in de toezichtsgebieten Oene en Kootwijkerbroek' (petition by businesspeople from the equestrian sector in the Oene and Kootwijkerbroek surveillance zones),
- having regard to the petition by the ‘Ent Europa’ Foundation,
- having regard to the numerous written contributions by private individuals and organisations addressed to its Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease concerning the course taken by Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 and concerning future policy on preventing and controlling Foot and Mouth Disease,
- having regard to the report of the Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease (A5-0405/2002),
A. states the following observations and considerations:
1. The speed at which Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) of the Pan-Asia O type spread within the European Union, particularly the United Kingdom, in 2001, was unprecedented in the history of FMD, as was the scale of the outbreaks.
2. FMD is a viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals (ruminants, pigs). The aphthovirus is highly infectious and extremely communicable. The great significance of the disease consists in the severe economic losses it causes as a result of the fall in animal yields, the barring of their products from the market and the expense of eradicating it.
3. In the United Kingdom alone, according to the British National Audit Office, 6.5 million animals (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and wild animals) were slaughtered, for which compensation was paid, either to combat the spread of the disease or as a direct consequence of disease control measures (so called 'welfare' slaughter), in connection with 2030 confirmed outbreaks; other estimates suggest that the number of animals slaughtered may even have been as high as 10 million, because many slaughtered new born lambs and calves were not counted for compensation purposes. In the Netherlands, the figure was around 285 000 animals, in France around 63 000 and in Ireland 53 000. The species most affected by the crisis in the United Kingdom was sheep, in which it is very difficult to diagnose the disease externally.
4. The 2001 FMD epidemic and the measures to tackle it caused major social dislocation in the countries affected and in other parts of the EU and had a massive economic impact on the areas concerned. Particularly farmers whose livestock were not slaughtered and the upstream and downstream sectors of food production, as well as other sectors of the economy, especially tourism, suffered serious financial losses.
5. The source of the epidemic has not been definitely identified. Inquiries by the British Government suggest that it was caused by feeding pigs on a farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland with waste from illegally imported meat, which infected them at the beginning of February 2001, after which the virus spread to sheep on a nearby farm and so, probably via the Longtown sheep market and other markets, to the whole country, France and Ireland. Through indirect contact with infected sites, the disease also spread to the Netherlands. Suspicions have been expressed that the crisis may have arisen from different causes, but these have not been substantiated.
6. Since only a very small number of cases were actually tested, and relatively few cases were confirmed to have the disease on laboratory testing, it is crucial that the epidemiological data be published and be subject to independent critical analysis, so that lessons about disease spread and control can be learned for the future.
The parameters for FMD control in 2001
7. The substantial increase in the number and stocking density of livestock in certain regions in the EU, along with greater animal movements, and the intensification of trade between the EU and third countries in recent decades, has increased the risk of infection of large animal populations in the EU and of correspondingly large losses to the industry and costs to the public purse because of the requisite inspection and disease control measures, as well as compensation payments. Support mechanisms within the framework of the common agricultural policy in the EU encourage intensive transport of and trade in animals susceptible to FMD within the internal market, and thus the spread of animal diseases, but there has not been any corresponding expansion of inspections or veterinary systems, research into vaccines and modern testing equipment.
8. Several Member States of the European Union had a strategy of general vaccination of their cattle before the European Union decided in 1991 to change to the present culling strategy.
9. Since 1992, contrary to the practice previously adopted in most Member States, the EU has banned prophylactic vaccination against FMD. On the basis of this ban, the EU pursues a ‘non-vaccination’ policy as a general rule, including when an outbreak of FMD occurs. The ‘non-vaccination’ policy is based on the trade-policy recommendations of the International Office of Epizootics (OIE), which, at least at the time of the crisis in 2001, did not adequately regulate the preconditions and consequences of emergency vaccinations in the event of an FMD outbreak. The OIE recommendations provided for excessively long periods before ‘FMD-free’ status, which is absolutely vital to trade, could be reacquired if emergency vaccination (protective inoculation) programmes were carried out during an outbreak, and did not take account of the state of the art with regard to tests to distinguish vaccinated animals from infected animals.
10. In addition, the OIE did not provide for a rapid procedure for the recognition of FMD-free areas within a country where outbreaks had occurred and an FMD-infected area had been designated. Only after a considerable delay would it have been possible to designate an FMD-free area, with the result that any regionalisation, particularly in conjunction with emergency vaccinations, did not seem attractive.
11. The EU's policy in the event of an FMD outbreak has accordingly hitherto been geared to culling livestock from infected herds and FMD-susceptible animals which had come into contact with the source of infection or infected vectors or which were shown to have become infected in any other way (a 'stamping-out' policy). As a general rule, emergency vaccinations were to be avoided and performed only - at the request of the Member State concerned - by way of exception, in the event of a major epidemic. In the light of experience of FMD in 2001, this policy cannot continue in its present form.
12. The 2001 FMD crisis was a traumatic experience in the areas affected. For the purpose of determining control strategies and methods, the policy of the EU and the Member States must therefore in future take account of the social and psychological impact on the public and effects on non-agricultural sectors of the economy, such as tourism, in the areas affected by a major FMD outbreak. Hitherto the basic ‘non-vaccination’ policy has assigned undue priority to trade-policy aspects.
Prevention and control of FMD in the United Kingdom in 2001
13. The United Kingdom tackled FMD by means of a contingency plan pursuant to Article 5(2) of Directive 90/423/EEC; the plan had been approved by the Commission in 1993 and last amended in 2000, and complied with the criteria laid down in Decision 91/42/EEC. The plan was based on previous experience of FMD and on the assumption that the spread of the disease would remain localised, i.e. the number of outbreaks would not exceed ten. Directive 90/423/EEC specifically requires that provision should be made for emergency vaccination 'where an epizootic disease threatens to become extensive' and that 'this decision shall have particular regard to the degree of concentration of animals in certain regions and the need to protect special breeds'. However, the UK 'Lessons Learned' inquiry found '... no evidence that that the UK took heed of the 1999 European report guidelines in altering UK strategic policy. Contingency planning for vaccination was minimal.' This was a major flaw in UK contingency planning and policy implementation, which should have been reviewed by the Commission and appropriate corrective action taken.
14. In the United Kingdom, there were already 50 to 70 outbreaks at the time of confirmation of FMD, and subsequently 12 epidemics (or mini-epidemics) occurred. Therefore the scale of the 2001 crisis far exceeded the presumed scale on which the national contingency plan and regional contingency plans were based. Yet in the light of previous experience and the foreseeable risk, it would have been disproportionate to gear the FMD contingency plan and the associated human and material resources to such a large scale. However, in retrospect the contingency plan ought to have included a scenario for a serious and extensive outbreak, including a ‘worst-case’ scenario.
15. However, contingency plans and the logistical and staffing preparations for an outbreak of FMD or other notifiable exotic animal diseases in the United Kingdom were suffering from considerable shortcomings, according to a report of February 1999 commissioned by the State Veterinary Service (Drummond Report). Hardly anything had been done to implement this report’s recommendations for remedying the shortcomings before the crisis arose, even though 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.
16. An export ban was imposed on the UK immediately, while the British Government delayed from 20 February 2001 (when the first case was confirmed) until 23 February 2001 before banning the movements of FMD-susceptible animals on a nationwide basis and closing livestock markets. This delay caused a considerable increase in the number of cases. In retrospect, an immediate nationwide ban on movements of FMD-susceptible animals would have been appropriate when the first case of FMD was detected in the United Kingdom, but large sections of the population would have considered this disproportionate at the time.
17. The lack of an effective system of identifying and tracing rapidly the transport routes taken by sheep, the species most affected by the epidemic, and the inadequacy of the checks carried out by dealers and at markets severely hampered efforts to control the disease.
18. The structures and organisation of the public service (government and administrative bodies) in the UK are very complex. The handling of the epidemic was characterised by a lack of coordination between veterinary and policy staff within the State Veterinary Service and between the regions and the centre. This led to a number of difficulties in defining and implementing the government's control strategy. A clear delineation of powers was lacking.
19. The number of full-time State veterinary staff in the UK has been reduced by about half in the past 20 years, although according to the British Government the number of official vets normally working in the field has changed little. Moreover, this considerable cut in the number of staff employed by the State Veterinary Service has been accompanied by the closure of local veterinary centres and a concentration on regional centres, which has inevitably resulted in a loss of knowledge of local conditions. Overall, this has weakened the capacity for responding to the crisis, particularly as the number of livestock has increased significantly over the same period. At the beginning of the epidemic, there were not enough staff to cope with the rapidly growing number of infected farms and carry out the requisite inspection and eradication measures. As a consequence large numbers of vets had to be recruited rapidly from overseas to help combat the epidemic. No provision had been made for an international assistance plan. Many offers of help from veterinary surgeons in the UK, both with and without previous experience of FMD, were ignored though hundreds of foreign vets were deployed Their help was invaluable, although in some cases it may have caused uncertainty among farmers partly on account of language problems.
20. The British Government’s information policy was inadequate, both before and during the crisis. The content of the contingency plan was not known to the public at the beginning of the outbreak or for some time during it (it was not placed on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture until August 2001). At the beginning of the outbreak the Ulster Farmers’ Union did not even know that a contingency plan existed.
21. The provision of information from State sources to local bodies and the farmers affected was poor, and advice from the various government departments was repeatedly altered, inconsistent or even contradictory. Moreover, the National Farmers' Union reported that MAFF officials frequently contacted the NFU's own helpline to seek advice as they were unable to obtain the information required from within MAFF itself.
22. Many of the problems associated with the management of the outbreak arose from bureaucratic and formalistic procedures for obtaining compensation, recurrent delays in decision-making and carrying out of measures by the authorities, particularly in connection with the disposal of animal carcasses, the lack of effective contingency plans, inadequately informed veterinary staff, staff shortages at the locally established disease control units, and violations of animal welfare legislation during culls and in connection with the movement ban. However, it is recognised that compensation claims must be administered in a fair and considered way in order to prevent fraud. In individual cases, it was also reported that farmers who were affected had been intimidated and pressurised in connection with the culls. 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.
23. On the other hand, the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office observed in March 2001 that the UK’s organisational response to the FMD outbreak was effective and efficient, at both national and local level, and the speed with which the central and local crisis centres were set up was impressive. The selfless commitment of the staff detailed to tackle the crisis was also singled out for comment. The FVO also remarked, however, that the extent of the epidemic quickly outstripped the resources available to control the disease.
24. Despite the rapid spread of the disease in the first few weeks, large parts of the country remained free of the disease and in some parts, such as Kent, the disease was successfully eradicated.
25. From late March onwards, the British Government based its decisions on epidemiological models. The mode of transmission of the virus did not play any part in the models, according to statements by the head of the British Government's scientific advisory group. The appropriateness of the unvalidated models used to plot the course of the epidemic remains scientifically controversial and in particular is challenged by veterinary scientists with FMD expertise. The models used ultimately resulted in the proposal at the end of March 2001 for the novel 24/48 hours contiguous culls (i.e. slaughtering susceptible animals at infected farms within 24 hours of the infection's being diagnosed and slaughtering susceptible animals at neighbouring farms within 48 hours) - a strategy which was fraught with inevitable lax biosecurity and documented infringements of animal welfare law.
26. The epidemic appeared to be running out of control until it peaked near the end of March 2001. At this point the 24/48 hours contiguous cull strategy began to be implemented, staff resources were augmented and the army was deployed to overcome logistical problems in disposing of animal carcasses. It remains controversial and doubtful whether the 24/48 hours contiguous cull strategy was really responsible for curbing the epidemic (halting the increase in the number of cases and bringing about a decrease); apart from any other consideration, in many cases it proved impossible to carry out the culls on neighbouring farms within 48 hours.
27. The deployment of the army, particularly to provide logistical support in disposing of animal carcasses, took place only at a relatively late stage, when the epidemic was already out of control and, in some cases, dead animals had been lying about on the affected farms for days. With hindsight, an earlier use of the army would have reduced the backlog of carcasses in disposal and the distress experienced by farmers and rural communities.
28. The disease control measures in the UK were evidently more successful in Scotland (County of Dumfries and Galloway) than in other areas, because lines of communication were shorter and the approach adopted was one of integrated contingency planning (political decisions and logistic control located primarily at regional level, although, in accordance with special agreements within the State, the State Veterinary Service also performed in Scotland the duties for which they provided). In addition, since the Lockerbie air disaster, special procedures had been developed for responding to crises. However, the total number of cases of FMD was in any case smaller in Scotland and animal movements were generally southbound.
29. The large number of animals culled caused enormous problems of disposing of animal carcasses, which could have been reduced by means of vaccinations on neighbouring farms or within a certain radius of infected farms.
30. The British Government’s decision to bury animal carcasses in mass burial sites or burn them on pyres as part of the mass culls was, in most cases, taken without adequate consultation of local institutions. Because of this, there were breaches of human and environmental health guidelines from emissions and groundwater pollution. It placed a huge burden on the populations of the areas concerned, and television pictures of the burning pyres and mass burials shocked the public on animal welfare grounds and had a catastrophic impact on tourism in those areas. Monitoring of the environmental impact of these methods of disposal at the locations where they were employed was not carried out to provide any conclusive results at the time, although carcinogens are recognised to have been released into the atmosphere from the burning of animal carcasses on pyres.
31. In a number of cases, culling of livestock probably involved violations of animal welfare legislation because of the pressure of time to which it gave rise. It was reported that unnecessary pain and suffering had been inflicted on animals because of the inexpert performance of staff, some of whom were not adequately trained. Member States should reflect on the necessary training of personnel in advance of an epidemic.
32. The mass culls and movement of carcasses to mass burial or incineration sites also gave rise to a risk of accidental further transmission of the virus via the staff deployed or their equipment and on account of the transport of slaughtered animal carcasses through uninfected areas. There is anecdotal evidence that such transmission actually occurred, but no official monitoring was undertaken at the time.
33. The 3 km cull which was ordered in Cumbria and in Dumfries and Galloway, which entailed culling sheep, pigs and goats within a 3 km radius of an infected farm, may not have had a basis in domestic law, irrespective of the question of the practicability and proportionality of this measure. However, only the courts can definitively determine whether the 3 km cull was legal. In the UK the courts have in two cases determined that the cull was in fact legal. It is not apparent that this is either explicitly permitted or explicitly prohibited at European level.
34. In Cumbria, from the end of March/beginning of April 2001, vaccinating cattle was an option recommended by the Chief Scientific Adviser to the government and the Chief Veterinary Officer on condition that certain criteria were complied with, including that of support from farmers. The government did not consider this option practicable, because it did not enjoy sufficient support from the National Farmers’ Union or the food trade (some farmers’ opposition to vaccinations was evidently due to the mistaken belief that there was no EU compensation available for the possible loss of value of vaccinated animals). Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions affecting the wellbeing of whole regions in the management of the FMD outbreak in the UK in 2001. This is all the more worrying because of unfounded and unsubstantiated fears in the food trade that consumers would not accept products from vaccinated livestock It is important that an agreement and understanding is reached in the near future to record that meat and milk from vaccinated animals are safe for human consumption, to avoid this kind of debate recurring in a future outbreak.
Control of FMD in the Netherlands
35. Apparently, the Foot and Mouth Disease virus was introduced to the Netherlands via a transport of Irish calves, which were exposed to the virus present on sheep from the United Kingdom, during an obligatory rest period in an official staging post for animal transport in Mayenne, France.
36. The organisation of measures to control FMD in the Netherlands was based on experience of the swine fever crisis. The FMD contingency plan clearly assigned responsibilities and laid down procedures, with decisions being taken centrally and implemented regionally; whereas at first local and regional expertise may have received too little attention on the Veluwe, the situation in the province of Friesland was very positive in this respect.
37. A crisis management team in the Ministry of Agriculture first met on 21 February, and a regional crisis management organisation was set up when the first outbreak occurred (21 March); it took several days to build up the regional organisation – staff and bodies – so that valuable time was lost before the implementing organisation was completely operational and effective in carrying out the veterinary measures and developing a network of contacts with other parties concerned in the region.
38. The Netherlands' strategy was initially one of eradicating the FMD virus as quickly as possible in order to regain 'FMD-free without vaccination' status; the government accepted as a necessary evil the resultant strong social and psychological impact on rural communities. But as the rising level of slaughter threatened to overwhelm available rendering capacity, permission for emergency vaccination-to-live was obtained and implemented. Only after the vaccination programme had been completed and the disease eliminated did the government switch instead to slaughter of the vaccinates in order for exports to resume after three months instead of twelve months delay under OIE rules.
39. The mass culls caused considerable public indignation in the Netherlands; farmers, especially dairy farmers, cattle raisers, holders and raisers of sheep and goats and smallholders who kept and bred animals as a hobby, as well as most veterinarians and the non-agricultural rural business sector and society at large, which was increasingly organised in new special interest organisations, argued in favour of emergency or prophylactic vaccination, after which the animals could stay alive, instead of culls; the FMD crisis in the Netherlands and the public outcry received very considerable media coverage.
40. At times, there was insufficient capacity to carry out the measures, which led to unwanted changes in the implementation plans.
41. In the Netherlands too, one important shortcoming in the FMD control measures was the national authorities’ inadequate coordination and information policy and the lack of arrangements to enable the farmers concerned to contact the State agencies responsible.
42. A culling policy was applied during the first days of the crisis in the Netherlands. Fairly quickly the ‘ring vaccination’ concept, after authorisation by the Commission, was introduced to bring the epidemic under control. All livestock within the vaccination ring were ultimately slaughtered in order for exports to resume at an early stage. The decision to cull the vaccinated livestock was taken after consultation and approval by farmers' organisations. In the end, around 10 000 animals were slaughtered per infected farm in the Netherlands, as against 2000 in the UK, although this was also due to the particularly high stocking density in the Netherlands and to the fact that, in the area around Oene, vaccination was planned and authorised for a wide radius (25 km) as an emergency-vaccination measure with the aim of ensuring that the vaccinated animals could continue to be used as normal.
43. In some cases, the Netherlands’ rules on the reduction of compensation for farmers resulted in extreme reductions, which were not felt to be justified; the systems of compensation and deductions from it in the event of livestock epidemics vary so widely within the EU as to give rise to a danger of distortion of competition.
Experience in France
44. Immediately after the first outbreak in the UK was reported, the French authorities activated the FMD contingency plan at national and regional level and set up crisis staffs, involving the relevant professional organisations.
45. In France too, FMD was combated by means of preventive culls combined with serological tests and a temporary ban on the movement of susceptible livestock, without resorting to vaccination. Following the two FMD outbreaks in France, susceptible animals were slaughtered within a 3 km radius of the farms concerned.
46. Measures to control FMD in France in 2001 were efficient and successful, although here too it was recognised that the identification and registration of sheep needed to be improved. It may be noted that the economic and social consequences did not play any significant role in the strategy for controlling FMD in France either. The issue of vaccination did not arise in France because there were so few foci of infection.
47. The issue of unequal compensation for damages has also arisen in France.
Experience in Ireland
48. The authorities in Ireland and Northern Ireland were forewarned by the outbreaks on the British mainland and were able to prepare themselves very well for the outbreak of FMD. Cooperation and coordination between Ireland and Northern Ireland went smoothly, and it was largely thanks to this that the FMD outbreaks remained very small in the region. The measures were effective and efficient.
49. The issue of vaccination did not arise, because there were so few outbreaks in Ireland.
Experience in Greece
50. In Greece, outbreaks of FMD were always sporadic, that is to say the disease is not endemic. Most cases occurred in the vicinity of Greece's eastern borders (Evros, Mytilini, Chios, Samos, the Dodecanese) since the disease is endemic in Turkey whereas it has not been reported in Greece's other neighbouring countries. Previously, it was believed that the disease entered Greece through illegal trade in live animals. Since the epidemics of 1994 and 1996 and the culling of several thousand animals, stock farmers in Greece have become more aware and maintain that there are no longer any illegal imports of animals from Turkey.
51. The last outbreak of the disease in the summer of 2000 in Evros was attributed to animals in the Greek border regions encountering Turkish animals in the River Evros, the waters of which were low owing to the protracted drought. It is possible therefore that the herds were in contact while grazing and watering. Since the virus is highly infectious and extremely communicable, it was easily transmitted. The origin of the viral strain which was isolated was established by laboratory testing with PCR. It was established that the strain was of the Asia 1 serotype similar to that found on the far bank of the River Evros.
52. During the epidemic in the summer of 2000, there were 12 outbreaks of the disease in Evros. Approximately 8000 animals (5400 cattle, 2300 goats and sheep, 300 pigs) were culled and buried at an estimated cost of 750 000 euro. This figure includes not only compensation but also the cost of supervising decontamination procedures, administrative and other expenditure. The social disruption was minimal and the media reaction was low-key, as was that of the animal welfare organisations.
The role of the Commission in controlling FMD
53. The Commission responded to the crisis immediately and took the necessary decisions. In the course of the crisis, it promptly adapted and documented its decisions on the basis of the opinions of the Standing Veterinary Committee in the light of events. No shortcomings have been identified in the Commission’s management of the crisis. The high quality of the Commission’s work in controlling the crisis has also been expressly stressed by the national veterinary authorities of Member States concerned.
54. However, the Commission failed to review the Member States’ contingency plans within an appropriate period following the introduction of the ban on prophylactic vaccination in 1992. At the time of the 2001 crisis – apart from the assessments in connection with the approval of the contingency plans – it had still not reviewed the implementation either of the UK’s contingency plan or of those of the Netherlands or France.
Control of FMD in third countries
55. Systematic preventive vaccination is practised in many countries where FMD is endemic. In recent years, emergency vaccinations in conjunction with targeted culling have rapidly eradicated the disease in Albania (1996), Korea and South Africa (2000) and Uruguay (2001).
56. The way in which Uruguay tackled FMD in 2001 demonstrates the considerable positive aspects of emergency vaccination without subsequent slaughter in the event of a widespread outbreak. Thanks to mass vaccination of 10 million cattle, accompanied by movement restrictions, the disease was eradicated within 15 weeks. Only just under 7000 animals were slaughtered. The human impact was limited and the cost of eradicating the disease (vaccines, disinfection, compensation for farmers) totalled only USD 13.6 m.
The question of vaccination in connection with the future strategy to control FMD in the EU
57. In the light of the experience in 2001, the question of whether and to what extent livestock ought to be vaccinated in the event of an FMD outbreak cannot be definitely resolved in advance for all eventualities. Because of current implications for international trade, the decision on vaccination is in any case not a scientific matter but a political one and therefore depends on the circumstances and interests which are taken into account and the priority objectives adopted for the purpose of controlling the epidemic. However, such a decision must always be grounded on solid scientific evidence and experience, as well as taking into account the specific circumstances of an epidemic. Many objections raised to vaccination could be removed by sensible debate with clear agreements being reached by interested parties before any future outbreak. Despite recent changes to OIE rules, the three-month 'trading penalty' that remains against vaccination should, in the view of many authorities, be removed by future resolution of the OIE so that slaughter and vaccination are treated equally. This change will enable decisions to be taken on the proper basis of disease control rather than economic and political considerations.
58. Experts attending the hearings held by the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on FMD were not agreed amongst themselves as to the appropriateness of vaccinations to stem an outbreak or eradicate the disease, from the point of view, inter alia, of veterinary medicine or in the light of epidemiological considerations e.g. number of serotypes, speed of action, problems of distinguishing antibodies of infected animals. However, many of the experts stressed that, under certain conditions, emergency vaccination is a better way of controlling FMD than the 'stamping out' method. The issue of vaccination needs to be resolved in the context of the particular situation. It must also be seen in the light of the seriousness of the risk of future FMD outbreaks due to the particular control method adopted.
59. Mass culling of livestock and the subsequent destruction of meat resulted in widespread public protests and can be ethically justified only by special socioeconomic grounds. Furthermore, some countries spent more money on disease control policy than they were able to save in terms of their lost export trade. Decisions must be taken in a transparent manner: otherwise it will be difficult to persuade those sections of the population who suffer most from a non-vaccination policy to provide the necessary cooperation during a future FMD outbreak. It has become clear from the 2001 epidemic that mass culling on the scale seen in the UK and the Netherlands will not be publicly acceptable again and that alternative control strategies are therefore essential.
60. The disease-control objective (motivated by trade considerations) of eradicating the disease as quickly as possible while culling the minimum number of animals should not entail an absolute non-vaccination policy, and must always be offset against other politically relevant objectives such as avoiding excessive economic losses in upstream and downstream sectors of food production and in other sectors of the economy and avoiding traumatic psychological and social consequences in the regions concerned.
61. The vaccines currently available make it possible – at least on a herd by herd basis – to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals. It is true that the problem of transmission of FMD by carrier animals (animals in which the virus can under certain circumstances still be detected more than 28 days after infection but which may possibly not be producing any antibodies to non-structural proteins or displaying clinical symptoms) still remains in principle and is not quantifiable so far. However, many experts consider the risk of transmission of FMD by carrier animals to be extremely slight.
62. The international recognition of serological tests to demonstrate the presence of antibodies to 3ABC or other non-structural proteins – at least on a herd by herd basis – for the purposes of regaining ‘FMD-free’ status more rapidly after emergency vaccination is a vital element in decision-making on vaccination in the event of an outbreak of FMD.
63. As early as March 1999, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare had already described the options of vaccinating and testing together with only three months of trade restriction as a strategy for the future.
64. The adverse impact of vaccination on exports of live animals and animal products has been considerably reduced following the change in the OIE’s Animal Health Code in May 2002 (reduction of the period before ‘FMD-free’ status can be regained to six months in the event of emergency vaccination without subsequent culling). This however implies that compared to a stamping out policy after which such status can be regained after three months, current recommendations still create a commercial disincentive to introduce a vaccinate to live policy.
65. In future, therefore, when an outbreak occurs, emergency vaccination with the aim of allowing animals to live for normal further use should no longer be regarded as a last resort for controlling FMD but must be considered as a first-choice option from the outset. In the case of infected farms and known dangerous contacts slaughter is the immediate requirement. A transparent list of criteria should be applied in order to assess the likely consequences of each control strategy. Staff and equipment for the effective implementation of a vaccination strategy should be made available quickly throughout the EU.
66. The list of criteria for emergency vaccination in the event of an outbreak of FMD which the Commission may compile in connection with a proposal for new rules on the control of FMD would be incomplete if it ignored the economic, psychological and social impact of the decision in the areas concerned. Such effects must be taken into account in deciding how to control FMD. Measures to tackle FMD should not only – as on previous occasions – be regarded as an operation to police the epidemic with the aim of safeguarding livestock holdings or particular commercial interests but should also have regard for changes in people’s way of life and in attitudes towards the environment and animal welfare and increased mobility, combined with a cost-benefit analysis of any given control strategy.
67. In the case of rare animals in zoos or game parks and scientifically valuable animals at research centres, culls should be avoided as a general rule and, if the spread of the virus cannot be prevented in any other way, the animals should be vaccinated.
68. Emergency vaccinations must be carried out in those cases in which they make it possible to avoid mass burial or burning on pyres, which are dangerous to the environment and health, and the risk of further spread of the virus from the vaccinated animals is relatively small.
69. The division of a country into FMD-free and FMD-infected zones ought in future to play an essential part in the event of a major outbreak, inter alia in deciding the control strategy. If animals are vaccinated, such a division should always be carried out.
70. A return to systematic prophylactic vaccination against FMD is not yet at this stage an option to aspire to, particularly because there are seven different serotypes, which cannot be tackled by a single vaccination, and 80 known subtypes exist within them, which likewise cannot be fully covered by a vaccination. Only by chance, therefore, could the right vaccine be chosen. Moreover, the impact on trade would still at this stage be very serious, not only because under OIE rules vaccinated animals cannot be exported to countries which have the status of ‘FMD-free countries where vaccination is not practised’ but also because exports of other animal products derived from vaccinated animals to countries which are FMD-free and do not practise vaccination would in practice be substantially hampered.
Rules and controls on imports in the EU
71. Full traceability of all animal products for human consumption should be guaranteed within the EU. This should include labelling of country of origin on all foods and catering supplies.
72. The rules on imports which are designed to prevent the entry of pathogens, particularly those on the OIE’s A list, are harmonised throughout the EU. In addition to veterinary inspections at the external borders, they entail a range of import restrictions on health grounds for animals and animal products and inspection and approval procedures for the countries from which the EU imports live animals or animal products.
73. The EU does not import FMD-susceptible animals from third countries unless they have the status of ‘FMD-free countries where vaccination is not practised’. Imports of meat from countries which do not have this status are subject to special conditions (for example, beef must inter alia be deboned and matured). Contrary to assertions which have been made in public, these conditions are no less strict than those for exports of meat from an EU Member State where FMD has broken out to another Member State.
74. In recent years, livestock epidemics in the EU have not been proven as caused by products which are imported regularly and checked in the process. The Food and Veterinary Office’s inspections of border control posts have however revealed serious shortcomings in import controls.
75. The most serious source of the risk of entry of FMD is illegal imports of animal products from countries where FMD is endemic. Although it is virtually impossible to guarantee zero-risk of illegal imports, more can and must be done to check, identify and destroy illegal meat imports as part of a concerted strategy to prevent the disease entering the Union and restore confidence in the food sector.
76. Checks on imports of products of animal origin by tourists are far less strict at EU airports and other points of entry than they are for example in the USA, Australia or New Zealand. While the risk that FMD will be brought in by tourists or in food for consumption during travel is relatively slight, it is not negligible, bearing in mind that, for example, at Heathrow airport within a period of a few days in May 2000 illegally imported food with a total weight of 3100 kg was seized during checks on passengers’ baggage, including meat from exotic animals (‘bushmeat’) and various types of fish. At Dublin airport, around two tons of illegally imported animal products are found and confiscated every month.
77. According to the Commission, measures to control FMD are placing a considerable burden on the EU budget. In 2001, commitment appropriations for them totalled
€ 421 141 381 (€ 2 700 000 for Ireland, € 3 300 000 for France, € 39 000 000 for the Netherlands and € 376 141 381 for the United Kingdom). In 2002, payments totalling
€ 400 m were made in this connection (€ 2 700 000 for Ireland, € 3 300 000 for France, € 39 000 000 for the Netherlands and € 355 000 000 for the United Kingdom). These figures include the advance payments decided upon in August 2001.
78. Under Community law compensation up to 60% is granted towards the costs of destruction of animals, milk, feed as well as disinfection, etc. in case of an outbreak of FMD. The other 40% of the costs are borne by the budgets of Member State governments (UK, Ireland, France and most other Member States) or by funds to which livestock farmers make contributions (the Netherlands, Germany, Flanders). For the 2001 outbreak the Dutch animal health fund, made up solely of farmer contributions, completely covered the 40% of the compensated costs in the Netherlands.
79. As animal diseases are unpredictable, there are in principle only two options for responding to them, using the EU budget. Either one does not make any special provision for an outbreak and, if an outbreak occurs, tries to find and use spare appropriations within the existing budget, or one obtains the requisite appropriations by means of a supplementary budget. This has been the practice to date, but it is desirable to create an ad hoc reserve in the budget, the amount of which would be determined in the light of the experience gained, the development of prophylaxies and risk assessments.
80. The method of assessing the losses of farmers eligible for compensation also determines the size of the contribution to be made by the Community and should therefore be transparent and objective, assigning them their true value, and should not be influenced by chance fluctuations in market prices.
81. It is unacceptable that only farmers – in whose interest the non-vaccination policy is being pursued – should receive compensation under Decision 90/424/EEC for livestock lost in an FMD outbreak while other farmers and those in other sectors of the economy – particularly tourism and sport – are compelled to foot the bill for their own losses arising from this policy. The rules on compensation need to be reviewed in the light of this.
82. The practice adhered to in compensating farmers in the event of an FMD outbreak is unjust. It is not clear why only farmers whose animals have been culled should receive compensation, while none is paid to farmers who have been unable to market animals or animal products properly because of the movement ban. It is also desirable to take into account economic losses arising from these bans. The provisions of Decision 90/424/EEC for the compensation payments granted by the EU should be amended accordingly.
83. Compensation for losses arising from FMD should as a general rule cover less than 100% of the losses, in order to increase the incentive to comply with the necessary biosecurity rules on farms. Not more than 80% of losses eligible for compensation should be reimbursed from public funds. The system of compensation for losses arising from FMD must be decided at European level and apply to all Member States in order to avoid distortions of competition.
84. The preconditions for compensation for losses due to animal diseases, particularly FMD, must be transparent, so that, in particular, the farmers concerned do not resist measures which are necessary in order to control disease because of misconceptions about the compensation which may be payable.
Other animal diseases
85. In addition to FMD, livestock in the EU are threatened by other animal diseases, some of which are also dangerous to humans, such as TSE and avian influenza. From the economic point of view the diseases which currently present the greatest risk are FMD, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, Newcastle disease and avian influenza.
86. Possibly as a result of global warming such diseases as bluetongue, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, have recently appeared in temperate latitudes.
87. Policy on vaccination against animal diseases which can cause serious economic damage and of whose introduction there is a high risk is not standardised in the EU. The vaccines available – where they exist at all – sometimes only afford limited protection or, for economic reasons, are only used in emergency vaccination campaigns (as is the case with classical swine fever).
88. In view of the intensification of world trade and global warming, a thorough analysis of the existing and likely future threats arising from the introduction of animal diseases into the EU which could cause major economic damage is urgently needed at European level.
B. calls on the Commission and the Member States, as appropriate, to adopt the following measures:
89. Lasting success can be achieved in efforts to control FMD worldwide only if it proves possible, through close international cooperation, to curb the disease decisively in areas where it is still endemic. The Commission should therefore do more to assist the countries concerned in their efforts to control or eradicate FMD and seek to improve cooperation with regard to information (early warning systems).
90. The EU has successfully worked in Turkey and Transcaucasia with the aim of creating a buffer zone preventing the spread of the disease to South-Eastern Europe. A sufficient budget needs to be secured for these actions both in these regions and other regions bordering the enlarging EU as well as for supporting the fight against other type A diseases in developing countries.
91. In the accession negotiations, the Commission should ensure that, at the time of accession, the applicant countries’ border control posts at the future external borders of the EU are of the same standard as those of the present Member States. Member States, coordinated by the Commission, should extend cooperation with the applicant countries in the field of prevention and control of livestock diseases.
92. Member States and the Community (through coordination with the existing vaccine banks) should keep sufficient stocks of vaccines/antigen material to be able to supply them quickly to countries bordering on the EU without difficulty if that becomes necessary. In order to implement any control strategy based on culling, vaccination or biosecurity, it is essential that Member States have personnel available rapidly to deliver the strategy.
93. As members of the OIE, Member States should, in cooperation with the Commission, seek to ensure that OIE recommendations constantly keep pace with scientific progress in the development of vaccines and test procedures and that OIE procedures allow for rapid decision-making.
94. The Commission and Member States are called upon to actively strive to bring the waiting period for regaining FMD-free status after application of a strategy of vaccination without subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals into line with the period used when a slaughter policy is applied, in other words three months in both cases. In this connection, however, account should be taken of the need for further validation and improvement of the tests for identifying infected animals in a vaccinated animal population.
95. As a major FMD outbreak within the EU internal market can very quickly assume international proportions, the interests of countries bordering on a Member State where FMD has broken out and those of the Community as a whole must be taken into account. The Community should be in a position to play an essential role in the determination of the strategy for controlling FMD itself if this is required in order to protect vital interests of Member States threatened by FMD or of the Community. Member States should approve Commission proposals to this end.
96. On the basis of an analysis of the existing and likely future threats arising from the introduction of animal diseases into the EU which could cause major economic damage and social dislocation, the Commission should review its overall strategy for preventing and controlling livestock diseases in the EU. The preparation of such a strategy review should also address the extent to which the increasing globalisation of the food trade plays a part in the increasing number, and spread, of animal disease outbreaks, and identify appropriate measures to counteract this process – e.g. inter alia, the reduced movement of meat and livestock within and between Member States, and the provision of more local abattoirs.
97. Member States should gear their animal disease monitoring systems to ensuring that outbreaks are detected at an early stage. If there is a strong suspicion of an outbreak of a contagious animal disease (OIE list-A) in the future, it is necessary to order an immediate and complete nationwide ban on all transport of susceptible animals, thus minimising the chances of spreading the disease. The diagnosis of an animal disease should be performed using a fixed protocol and should be transparent to all concerned.
98. Member States should organise regular inspections of farms in order to check that farmers know and are applying the general rules on health and biosecurity.
99. Member States should consider on the basis of risk analyses to what extent restrictions on the transport of livestock should be introduced even at times when no outbreak of disease has occurred, especially if there is a particular risk that a disease may break out, for example when it has already done so in another Member State. The Commission should, as a matter of urgency, give particular consideration to standstill periods to apply between journeys made by dealer-owned livestock, and investigate measures to discourage multiple journeys without genuine need.
100. Member States should review their contingency plans in the light of experience of the FMD crisis in 2001 – particularly with reference to the staff available for deployment, equipment and laboratory capacity – and should test them regularly.
101. The contingency plans must strive to ensure that regions proven to be FMD free but falling within countries affected by FMD during an outbreak can be recognised as such.
102. Contingency plans should be based on risk analysis and provide for various scenarios so that even major outbreaks can be kept under control. They must take account of disposal capacity to ensure that sufficient capacity exists to dispose of animal carcasses. The plans must include pre-identified sites, which take account of public health, food safety, social and environmental concerns. Member States should consider whether disposal resources may be shared.
104. The criteria for emergency vaccination should be defined as precisely as possible without unduly restricting the discretion which the authorities must enjoy when controlling epidemics. The plans should involve not only agriculture but also small-scale livestock owners, the food trade and other relevant sectors of the economy, local authorities and consumers' organisations and owners of zoos and game parks.
105. Member States, in cooperation with the Commission, should establish compatible, networkable, electronic animal epidemic information systems containing and linking all information which is of relevance for the purposes of effective management of livestock epidemics, into which relevant information from the operatives on the ground (especially vets) can be input in real time and in coordination with the responsible authorities in the event of an outbreak.
106. Member States should provide an integrated crisis management system and short lines of communication to the bodies involved and, in case of doubt and provided that this does not jeopardise the implementation of national strategies, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle, assign decision-making powers to local or regional level. When drafting contingency plans, provision should be made upstream for adjusting the measures to be taken in the light of the risks which arise, and it should be decided what channels will be used to inform the public. Provision must be made for the welfare consequences for livestock of animal movement restrictions. Furthermore, clear contractual terms need to be established with the operators engaged in the management of an animal disease outbreak to prevent them from exploiting an emergency for commercial gain and ensure that they comply with standard financial control practice.
107. Member States' contingency plans must ensure that an open information policy for affected farmers, people in the crisis areas and the population at large is in place and provide for psychological support systems for affected farmers and smallholders if necessary.
108. Member States should coordinate their contingency plans, particularly with reference to regions near borders. The Commission should play a coordinating and facilitating role here.
109. The establishment of continuous contact, upstream and downstream, between all the stakeholders concerned (public and local authorities, farmers, welfare organisations and members of the public) should be included in the drafting of contingency plans and should receive particular attention in the Commission’s evaluations thereof.
110. Agreement must be reached as quickly as possible on a pre-defined EU-wide list of relevant animal product categories which are subject to FMD trade restrictions.
111. The Commission should examine the contingency plan as well as the state of readiness of the veterinary services of each Member State at least once every three years on the spot.
112. Member States should keep the principles of their contingency plans accessible by Internet at all times.
113. Member States are called upon to immediately halt and reverse the trend towards cutting the number of staff in public veterinary services and to permanently provide sufficient veterinary staff to prevent and control livestock diseases so that even major epidemics do not get out of control.
114. Member States should regularly carry out training measures and crisis exercises to control epidemics, involving farmers and vets, including internationally in cooperation with neighbouring Member States. Serious consideration should be given to setting up an EU-wide veterinary reserve of qualified vets available for rapid deployment. The availability of veterinary resources is critical to the success or failure of any control strategy. Contingency planning should include the ability to call on vets in the private sector at short notice.
115. Member States should increase the provision of information to the public concerning livestock diseases and their impact on human health.
116. The Commission should as quickly as possible submit a proposal for amending Directive 92/102/EC so as to improve the identification of pigs, sheep and goats. As a matter of priority, the Commission should look to electronic identification as a durable and multi-faceted means of delivering rapid, efficient and infallible traceability of livestock.
117. Member States should issue guidelines comprising elementary precautions to prevent animal diseases which must be complied with on farms where livestock are kept. Where breaches are repeatedly found to have occurred, it should be possible to ban those responsible from livestock farming.
118. Member States should appropriately increase the number of staff performing inspections at airports in order to reduce the risk of livestock diseases being carried by means of illegal meat imports or imports of products of animal origin in the luggage of air passengers, and make more use of sniffer dogs to detect these products. The same measures and increased vigilance should apply to all entry points into the EU.
119. The Community should as soon as possible revoke the authorisation pursuant to Directive 72/462/EEC for travellers to import small quantities of meat intended for their personal consumption as part of their personal baggage. Failure to comply with the ban on this should be punished by means of fines sufficiently substantial to be effective.
120. Member States’ inspection measures at the external borders of the EU to prevent imports of susceptible animals and of products derived from them from countries at risk of FMD and when there are FMD outbreaks in neighbouring countries should be uniform. A full review of EU legislation and controls on the importation of animals and animal products should be carried out to identify shortcomings in current practice. In addition, the EU should not ignore the risks posed by diseases in plants. Consequently, such a review should extend to the controls on plants and plant products. Inspection measures should be equally stringent with respect to the importation of plants and plant products, and should also be reviewed and tightened as a priority.
121. The European Commission must as a matter of urgency review its policy with a view to introducing, as is the case in the United States, a ban on imports of meat and products of animal origin from third countries where FMD and other infectious animal diseases are endemic.
122. Member States should strictly apply the EU harmonised system for imports of ungulates and ensure that imports come only from third countries listed as safe and only if accompanied by the required animal health certificates. Products of animal origin should come only from approved producers and imports should only be possible via special, properly equipped veterinary border control posts. In the event of breaches of import regulations in the food trade, Member States should impose deterrent penalties, which should be as identical as possible.
123. The Commission should without delay take measures to improve the existing system for monitoring the movement of live animals within the EU (Animo system). In addition, the system for the monitoring of imports into the EU (Shift system) should be introduced quickly.
124. The Commission should as soon as possible submit a proposal for amending Directive 97/78/EC (laying down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on products entering the Community from third countries) with reference to fields which are not at present completely under control, namely the entry of products destined for free warehouses or to supply ships, particularly their conditions of entry. Accordingly, the entry of products destined for free warehouses or to supply ships which do not come from countries authorised to export to the European Union should be banned.
Research and development
125. The Commission should immediately designate a Community reference laboratory for vesicular virus diseases, which should maintain contact with the officially designated national laboratories, assist them and be in a position to make optimal methods of diagnosis of vesicular virus diseases of animals available, perform experiments and field trials relevant to FMD and provide information and further-training programmes.
126. Pen-side tests that could be used by veterinarians in the field urgently need to be internationally validated, and further developed so that they are sufficiently cheap and robust for regular use. When developed, they should be linked electronically to a central database that would hold all the results in an outbreak.
127. The Commission and Member States should provide more funding and coordination for research into livestock diseases which figure in the OIE’s A list and occur or are likely to occur in the EU, with the aim of facilitating systematic vaccination. In the case of FMD, the priorities should be as follows:
7 to improve vaccines with the aim of developing a vaccine which needs to be administered only once and which covers as many serotypes and subtypes as possible, builds up protection very quickly and blocks transmission of the virus in order to exclude carrier status,
7 to improve tests with the aim of reliably distinguishing between vaccinated animals and animals which are both vaccinated and infected and detecting FMD earlier than hitherto after an infection,
7 mathematical models which will improve prediction of the impact of the various control strategies, including vaccination.
128. The Commission should submit a proposal to amend Council Decision 90/424/EEC so as, in general, to permit the Community to contribute to compensation payments for losses arising from FMD control measures only if the Member State concerned has transposed all relevant directives on FMD before the outbreak and the Member State’s preparations for a possible FMD outbreak (contingency plan, staffing, equipment and infrastructure) were adequate. Compensation should also be conditional on the recipient’s making an appropriate contribution by means of premiums for relevant insurance or in some other way.
129. The Commission and Member States should investigate to what extent the existing system of compensation payments unduly influences the control of FMD, in particular, the unjust system whereby compensation is paid only to one group of victims (farmers whose livestock is culled) should be overhauled.
130. In the Netherlands it should be reviewed whether the compensation system could potentially be dissociated from the penalties for non-compliance with biosecurity conditions, particularly since Dutch farmers, unlike those in some other Member States, in any case meet the cost of part of the losses themselves through the payment of contributions to the emergency fund.
131. The Court of Auditors should investigate the use of EU funds for compensation of FMD related costs.
132. Equines are not susceptible to the FMD Disease virus, but still they may be carriers. To reduce any risk of indirect spread of the virus, stringent hygiene precautions are essential and all unnecessary movements should be avoided. Whenever horses are transported this should only be in thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, dedicated equine transport.
133. The Commission should draw up a protocol, based on risk analysis, on the movement of non-susceptible animals, e.g. equines, in an FMD outbreak.
134. The Commission is called upon, on the basis both of the experience of 2001 and of new scientific information, to draw up a cost-benefit analysis of prophylactic vaccination, which was successfully employed by a number of Member States before 1992. This study should include an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages in the field of international trade, public opinion and marketing possibilities within the EU.
135. In addition, the Commission should commission a study (cost-benefit analysis) of strategies for controlling FMD outbreaks (emergency vaccinations/stamping out), taking account of both the economic and non-economic impact in the areas concerned and at national and EU level.
136. Member States should ensure by means of legislation and organisational measures that in the event of vaccination, products derived from animals vaccinated against FMD can be marketed throughout the EU, provided that there are no objections to this on grounds of disease control. Major food businesses and consumers’ organisations should be involved in the planning and any public fears allayed by logical explanation.
137. Member States are called upon to transpose properly Directive 91/628/EEC (as amended by Directive 95/29/EC) on the protection of animals during transport.
138. Member States should without delay start implementing the provisions banning the use of catering waste as feed in the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 October 2002 laying down health rules concerning animal by-products not intended for human consumption (Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002).
139. The Commission should submit to Parliament and the Council legislative proposals to improve standards of biosecurity in animal welfare so as to minimise the risks of spreading contagious diseases through the transport of live animals (taking account of staging posts). Consideration should be given to limiting animal movements and promoting slaughter close to the production of the animals.
140. The Commission should submit to Parliament and the Council an evaluation report as to whether the FVO has the right staff and infrastructure to enable it to carry out its duties effectively in the long term. In the context of enlargement, the Commission should ensure that the extra staff and resources necessary are provided which will enable the FVO to continue delivering the same level of inspections and monitoring.
141. In view of the risks arising from animal diseases, Member States should examine the options regarding insurance systems for the livestock farming sector which not only cover direct losses but also pay compensation for consequential damage such as losses due to movement bans and entail appropriate contributions from the insured in order to provide an incentive for good farming practice.
142. The Commission should investigate whether the EU can participate in a fund drawing its resources partly from the EU and partly from private sources.
143. The Commission should publish a communication laying out various possibilities for an insurance scheme or guarantee fund covering the part of the costs for FMD and other livestock diseases borne by the EU budget. This communication should provide a cost-benefit analysis of such schemes and provide recommendations on, for example, a private insurance scheme with re-insurance or guarantees from the European Communities, or an EU Animal Health Fund to be filled, up to a certain ceiling, by contributions from all livestock farmers; such would provide for more European budgetary stability. The communication should also include recommendations on the introduction of such schemes for non-direct costs of livestock disease epidemics in both the agricultural and the non-agricultural sector.
144. The Commission should evaluate the availability of veterinary resources, particularly in remote regions of the Union, and advise on measures required to be taken by Member States. With the increase in extensification and the value of livestock set at world market prices, many veterinary practices in remote areas will be unviable in the absence of European or State support. The consequences of a lack of veterinary practitioner resources were obvious during the FMD outbreak in the UK. This leads to poor surveillance for exotic diseases and emerging diseases. There is also a major animal welfare issue at stake.
145. The Commission should quickly submit a proposal for Community measures to control FMD, taking account of the conclusions of this resolution.
C. instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the Court of Auditors, the countries which have applied for accession to the European Union, the International Office of Epizootics and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
29 November 2002
on measures to control Foot and Mouth Disease in the European Union in 2001 and future measures to prevent and control animal diseases in the European Union
Part 2: Explanatory statement
Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease
Rapporteur: Wolfgang Kreissl-Dvrfler
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT............................................................................................ 4
Motion for a resolution ........................................................................... Part 1 - A5-0405/2002
The foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) situation in the EU in 2001 was, in terms of the number of animals destroyed under a stamping-out policy, probably the most serious which has ever occurred. In the United Kingdom alone, where there were 2030 confirmed outbreaks, more than 6.5 million animals (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and wild animals) were destroyed in the process of combating the disease, according to figures provided by the British National Audit Office, while other estimates put the number of animals slaughtered at 10 million. The unprecedented scale of the slaughtering of what were probably for the most part healthy animals, the dramatic method of carcass disposal involving burning the bodies of animals on pyres and the serious disruption caused for people living in the affected areas, was met with strong public criticism. The strategy pursued by the EU and by the Member States concerned, and the implementation of this strategy in combating FMD, were debated at numerous events and in the media. The European Parliament (EP) addressed the crisis in two resolutions (of 5 April and 6 September 2001).
The decision to set up a temporary committee on foot-and-mouth disease was adopted by the EP in its resolution of 16 January 2002. This resolution defines the powers and tasks of the committee as follows:
(a) to assess EU policy and the control of meat imports from third countries in the context of the epidemic;
(b) to analyse the management of the foot-and-mouth epidemic and the implementation of Community law in this regard to date, and to invite representatives of the Commission and of governments, as well as officials responsible, to attend hearings of the committee;
(c) to analyse the total impact on Community funds of the foot-and-mouth epidemic so far;
(d) on this basis to make proposals to look into vaccination policy in particular and for political and legislative initiatives with regard to the prevention and fighting of diseases in the agricultural sector in general.
Between March and September 2002, the committee held a large number of public hearings with representatives and officials of the Commission, the Member States and the regions, as well as relevant associations and scientific experts. Delegation visits to the worst hit areas in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands enabled it to gain its own impression of the experiences of the people affected.
The following discussion of the facts behind the 2001 FMD crisis and the characteristics and history of FMD - and the descriptions of the international and EU (legal) framework, other animal diseases etc. – are largely based on research and summaries provided by the Directorate-General for Research at the European Parliament's Secretariat in the form of communications to the committee. However, the rapporteur naturally accepts responsibility for them, and for the comments and evaluations made.
Characteristics of FMD
FMD is an extremely contagious viral disease which affects ruminants and porcine animals, both domesticated and wild. It has long been known which virus causes the disease. Nevertheless, it has not been brought under control owing in particular to its great capacity for mutation, which gives it the power, unseen, to adapt, resist control and infect targets.
Its extreme infectiousness and high degree of resistance, which vary according to the strain of the virus in question, call for the taking of draconian measures in infected areas. They also necessitate a real-time international exchange of information and global coordination of prophylactic measures. The OIE has therefore placed FMD at the top of List A of contagious animal diseases which must be notified to it.
The outbreak and spread of FMD causes substantial losses, in particular amongst young livestock, where mortality is high, and pregnant females, where the disease causes miscarriage. It also has a long-lasting effect on yield curves, as animals which recover do not always regain their previous potential.
FMD does not pose a risk to humans, however, and cases of FMD in people are still rare and without ill effect, whilst the consumption of meat from infected animals is not known to present a public health risk.
Further details on the FMD virus:
There are 7 immunological varieties of the FMD virus: 3 classic Euro-Asiatic types (types O, A and C) and 4 exotic types which affect only hot countries and originate in Southern Africa (SAT1, SAT2, SAT3) or Asia (ASIA 1) . The World Reference Laboratory has defined 53 sub-types as follows: 23 A, 10 O, 4 C, 7 SAT1, 3 SAT2, 4 SAT3 and 2 ASIA 1.
The disease is characterised by a number of clinical symptoms, in particular fever followed by the appearance of blisters on mucous membranes in the mouth, the muzzle or snout and the skin and around and between the hooves, the effect being limping and excessive salivation. The incubation period varies according to the species affected (between 36 hours in pigs and 21 days in sheep). The disease is not always easy to spot.
The virus spreads easily by means of direct contact (with live infected animals) and indirect contact (in the air, on the wind, on vehicles, people and agricultural equipment, in animal products or animal feed, and via other species that are not susceptible, such as horses and birds). Meat and animal by-products which are frozen, preserved, or in the form of raw or salted charcuterie, and inadequately treated swill all help spread the disease.
The virus is resistant outside its host but loses infectivity at a pH of less than 6 and more than 8. In meat, it is also rendered inactive by spontaneous maturation. The virus survives refrigeration perfectly intact but is adversely affected by dry conditions and high temperatures.
Foot-and-mouth disease, which was first described in Italy in the 16th century, occurred frequently in western Europe when traditional farming methods were used before and immediately after the Second World War. The development of an FMD vaccine in the 1950s contributed substantially to its subsequent eradication, as did the overall improvement in the health situation of livestock, the development of resources for detecting, monitoring and controlling diseases on the basis of a more collective approach to health crises and veterinary services that were well endowed with human and financial resources. The disease has been brought under control in most OECD countries, as well as the central and eastern European countries, where occasional outbreaks have often been caused by introduction from infected countries, but it is endemic to parts of Asia (eastern Asia) and the Indian sub-continent, Africa, the Near and Middle East and South America. However, its geographical spread varies greatly owing to its many sporadic recurrences.
Excluding the 2001 episode, there have been three cases in Europe, all small-scale: one in Italy, in 1993, and two others in Greece, in 1996 and 2000, started by viruses from Turkey and the Balkans.
Table : Overview of most recent declarations of FMD outbreaks in Europe.
(1) Previous case: 1967-1969 - 500 000 animals slaughtered – 1981 Isle of Wight
(2) Last epidemic in Ireland in 1941.
(3) Last epidemic in France in 1981.
Source : National Veterinary Schools of France.
The latest crisis in Europe has provided a sudden reminder of the fact that there are growing risks to animal health. Spurred into action, the international community reiterated its previous commitments to combat and control serious animal diseases which had until then remained something of a dead letter. It became clear that rapid globalisation and increased liberalisation of trade in goods and the movement of people had significantly heightened the threat.
Laboratory tests carried out by the World Reference Laboratory at Pirbright (UK) on samples taken from animals in the United Kingdom infected during the last outbreak revealed that the FMD virus was type 0, of the same Pan Asia strain that was responsible for outbreaks in Japan, Korea, Russia and Mongolia.
This highly virulent strain was detected for the first time in 1990 in north-eastern India, from where it is thought to have reached Malaysia, China and other neighbouring countries (Nepal in 1993-94; Bangladesh in 1996; Bhutan, Taiwan, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1998; Mongolia and the far east of Russia, South Korea and Japan in 2000). It also took hold in the Middle East, passing into Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries, before reaching Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria, where its spread was halted in 1996. After breaking out again in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan during the period 1998-2000, it emerged unexpectedly again, in the United Kingdom in February 2001.
Other strains are currently rife in Africa and South America. In the latter region, type O and A viruses have recently thwarted the progress that had been made in controlling and eradicating FMD in the big producer countries of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay).
FMD-free countries (North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Madagascar and various countries in Europe) are the exception in this context. However, the proximity of infected zones or routes used for the movement of animals means that the situation in some of them is permanently at risk.
The international standards on the prevention and treatment of FMD are codified in Chapter 2.1.1 of the International Animal Health Code drawn up by the OIE  and in the specific chapter of the Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines.
In the context of its standardisation activities concerning FMD, the OIE has drawn up a set of procedures and criteria for the international recognition of the disease-free status of a country or zone which has the force of a recommendation. On the basis of these procedures and criteria, three animal health statuses are defined, along with the specific conditions for awarding or restoring them, and applied to a zone or a country: FMD free country where vaccination is not practised'; 'FMD free country where vaccination is practised'; 'FMD infected country/zone'.
For the status 'FMD free country where vaccination is not practised' to be awarded, it must be established that there has been no outbreak of FMD and no vaccination has been carried out for at least 12 months and that no animals vaccinated against FMD have been imported since the cessation of vaccination (Article 220.127.116.11 of the Animal Health Code). If FMD occurs, the country can regain its status of FMD free country where vaccination is not practised either three months after the last case, where stamping-out and serological surveillance are applied, or three months after the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal where stamping-out, serological surveillance and emergency vaccination are applied (Article 18.104.22.168).
The animal health status of the country or zone of provenance is also accompanied by rules of varying degrees of stringency on the importation or transit of live animals, fresh meat, meat products and animal products (Chapter 2.1.1 of the International Animal Health Code).
The different statuses are extremely important, for they determine the scope for trade between countries. FMD free countries without vaccination are entitled to limit imports to animals and products exclusively from countries having the same status, thus restricting access to their markets for animals and products from other countries.
The International Animal Health Code also contains detailed provisions on the characteristics of meat (carcasses, fresh meat) and dairy products which can cross borders, as well as the processes which inactivate the virus (deboning, removal of lymphatic glands, maturation, heat treatment).
In view of the repercussions of a country's OIE status on trade policy, the conditions and consequences of emergency vaccination without subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals where an outbreak occurs in a country with the status 'FMD free country without vaccination' were not adequately regulated in the Animal Health Code. In particular, the 12-month period laid down did not take sufficient account of the progress made as regards vaccines and tests to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals. As a result, emergency vaccination without subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals in the event of an outbreak was seen as a last resort rather than as a genuine alternative to exclusive culling.
In May 2002 the OIE made a significant change with regard to regaining 'FMD free without vaccination' status: where emergency vaccination is practised without subsequent culling, such status can be regained after six rather than (at least) 12 months as had hitherto been the case. This is possible on condition that serological surveillance based on the detection of non-structural proteins of the FMD virus demonstrates the absence of infection in the remaining vaccinated animal population.
EU legislative provisions on the prevention and control of FMD provide for both measures in the event of a crisis and safeguard rules with regard to imports.
Community provisions for controlling FMD are set out in Council Directive 85/511/EEC, as amended by Council Directive 90/423/EEC. They are aimed at eradicating the disease as quickly as possible and, as far as possible, at limiting its economic impact. Since 1992, by virtue of Directive 90/423/EEC, (routine) prophylactic vaccination against FMD, which had previously been standard practice in several Member States, has been banned. In its place a policy of total slaughter and of destruction of infected animals has been applied, as this was considered to be a more effective means of eradicating the disease. In addition to the ban on (routine) prophylactic vaccination, there is also a ban on introducing vaccinated animals into Community territory.
The measures taken by the Community provide for:
- official surveillance of the holding in question, as soon as suspect animals have been identified, accompanied by restrictions on the movements of animals, products, persons and vehicles - extended, if need be, to include neighbouring holdings (Article 4);
- the 'stamping-out' approach, i.e. the killing, on the spot, and the destruction of all animals of susceptible species on the affected holding as soon as infection has been confirmed, and of susceptible animals where an epidemiological link is established with the source of infection (Article 5(2-4)).
National provisions, in particular emergency plans (Article 5 of Directive 90/423/EC) drawn up on the basis of criteria laid down, and validated and monitored by the Commission, as well as sets of other instruments (epidemiological surveys; virus diffusion models; public awareness and information campaigns and training sessions; real-situation emergency exercises) provide further strategic and operational means of combating FMD in the Member States.
Regardless of the prohibition in principle of vaccination, emergency vaccination is still authorised, though only subject to strict conditions (spread of disease) and stringent technical procedures. With a view to emergency vaccination, Community rules distinguish between suppressive vaccination (where animals are first vaccinated to restrict the spread of the virus and/or because there is a lack of capacity for disposing of carcasses, but are subsequently slaughtered when the disease has been successfully eradicated and disposal problems have been overcome) and protective vaccination (where animals – particularly cattle – are subsequently used normally), and lay down the measures applicable to vaccinated animals and products derived from them. Save where exceptions are provided for, it is for the Commission to decide in cooperation with the Member State concerned, after the Veterinary Committee has adopted its opinion by a qualified majority. It takes particular account of the stocking density in certain regions and of the need to protect specific races. The 1999 Commission guidelines for contingency plans recommended vaccination only in the event of a very large outbreak in areas with high stocking density.
The decision to abandon (routine) prophylactic vaccination against FMD (which was practised systematically, on an annual basis, by all Member States apart from the UK, Ireland and Denmark, which favoured exclusive slaughter), was taken in relation to the creation of the Single Market in 1992. The reasons for this were health-related, scientific, trade-related and economic.
The arguments were as follows:
• Cases were rare in the Community and most often connected with vaccines that had been poorly inactivated;
• Limits of vaccination in terms of safety and effectiveness (owing in particular to the risks associated with contaminating healthy animals, to the inadequacies of the tests used, which did not make it possible to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals and thus had an adverse effect on FMD detection and control measures; to the existence of numerous known types and sub-types of the virus, and to the practical constraints and logistical and financial problems which vaccination entails);
• The prospect of reopening the borders of FMD-free third countries who were opposed to importing vaccinated animals;
• The need, in the context of the common market, to implement a uniform health policy owing to the risk of seeing intra-Community trade hampered by differing national policies.
In order to deal with the growing risks posed by epizootic viruses as a result of the ending of anti-FMD vaccination and an increase in trade, the European Union requires each Member State to draw up a contingency plan for the control of foot-and-mouth disease. Such plans are designed to ensure that the disease is eradicated quickly and effectively and must be ready for activation in the event of FMD outbreaks, in conformity with the minimum Community criteria laid down in Commission Decision 91/42/EEC of 8 January 1991, and with recommendations issued by the Commission.
The criteria applicable to contingency plans in accordance with Commission Decision 91/42/EEC are as follows:
- the establishment of a crisis centre on a national level, which shall coordinate all control measures in the Member State concerned,
- a list shall be provided of local disease control centres with adequate facilities to coordinate the disease control measures at a local level,
- detailed information shall be given about the staff involved in control measures, their skills and their responsibilities,
- each local disease control centre must be able to contact rapidly persons/organisations which are directly or indirectly involved in an outbreak,
- equipment and materials shall be available to carry out the disease control measures properly,
- detailed instructions shall be provided on action to be taken on suspicion and confirmation of infection or contamination, including proposed means of disposal of carcasses,
- training programmes shall be established to maintain and develop skills in field and administrative procedures,
- diagnostic laboratories must have facilities for post-mortem examination, the necessary capacity for serology, histology, etc., and must maintain the skills for rapid diagnosis. Arrangements must be made for rapid transportation of samples,
- details shall be provided of the quantity of foot and mouth disease vaccine estimated to be required in the event of a reinstatement of emergency vaccination,
- provisions shall be made to ensure the legal powers, necessary for the implementation of the contingency plans.
The Commission assessed and approved the contingency plans submitted to it by the Member States in accordance with:
- Commission Decision 93/455/EEC of 23 July 1993, approving certain contingency plans for the control of foot-and-mouth disease for Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and the United Kingdom,
- Commission Decision 95/194/EC of 30 May 1995 amending Decision 93/455/EEC approving certain contingency plans for the control of foot-and-mouth disease for the Netherlands.
Monitoring of contingency plans
The Commission Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) assesses Member States' contingency plans to establish whether they are up-to-date and operational. The table below summarises the inspections carried out by the FVO in this connection, including seven on-the-spot inspections carried out between March and August 2001 following the occurrence of FMD in the Community with the aim of assessing the situation and the control measures implemented in the four countries affected:
Report by DG (SANCO) or XXIV/
In addition to compliance with the criteria laid down in Decision 91/42/EEC, the various on-the-spot inspections allow the FVO to verify:
- whether Community provisions, in particular those in Council Directive 85/511/EEC, have been correctly transposed into national law,
- whether internal legal provisions have actually been adopted, authorising veterinary services to implement contingency plans and covering the main emergency and prevention measures,
- whether national central authorities actually have the powers and responsibilities necessary to apply all the control measures that may be needed in the event of an epizootic disease occurring and whether the chain of command is clearly defined and organised,
and to assess:
- the general level of preparedness to deal with an epidemic, the quality of the human and material resources available to national and local crisis centres and the aptness and updating of instructions concerning emergency planning,
- the financial provisions laid down as regards financing arrangements, the costs covered, payments periods, the ceilings on funding, the rules and criteria for assessing requests for compensation and the level of compensation granted,
- and, lastly, the capacity and quality of the national reference laboratory.
The conclusions reached as a result of the inspections carried out to date do not point to major shortcomings but weaknesses which essentially affect the implementation of contingency plans and the state of preparedness of the countries concerned.
u The reports confirm in particular that all Member States have transposed European Union FMD directives into national law. In the UK, however, the FVO noted that 'in relation to certain specific technical issues, Council Directive 85/511/EEC has not been fully transposed into national law' and added that 'the Competent Authority stated that the existing national legislation gives them full powers to implement Directive requirements'. Nevertheless, the UK is planning to remedy this situation when the British 'Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983' is replaced in the near future.
u Inspections also reveal that all Member States have introduced adequate legal powers authorising national veterinary services to implement the contingency plans and apply the necessary eradication or control measures. They also confirm that generally, in each country, the national central authority does actually have the required powers and responsibilities (although there are a number of weaknesses in some cases, e.g. in Spain, in relations between the national competent authority and local competent authorities).
These weaknesses sometimes recur, in particular the insufficient attention some Member States devote to training and raising the awareness of veterinarians and rural communities in general: training is not specific or practical enough and, where it is given, there is insufficient follow-up in the form of real-time simulation exercises. Weaknesses also affect performance, and the quality of management and the sharing of databases for the registration of holdings or animals at the different levels (central or local).
The adoption of a uniform Community policy on FMD control measures involved drawing up common rules on trade. The importation of live animals and certain animal products from third countries was linked to a number of harmonised conditions.
Council Directive 72/462/EEC of 12 December 1972 on health and veterinary inspection problems upon importation of bovine animals and swine and meat products from third countries provided the framework, which was subsequently supplemented by Directive 89/227/EEC, which extended its scope to include imports of meat products and by Council Directive 91/69/EEC of 28 January 2001, so as to include meat of ovine and caprine animals.
Generally, health and veterinary inspection rules applicable to imports from third countries must be at least equivalent to those laid down for the same goods produced in the European Union. However, imports must come from countries, or parts of countries, that have been authorised, and approved establishments if the goods have been processed, and must be accompanied by health certificates attesting to their compliance with the conditions required in the European Union.
In 2000 the Commission submitted a proposal for a Council regulation laying down the animal‑health rules governing the production, placing on the market and importation of products of animal origin intended for human consumption (COM(2000) 438). This regulation is expected to enter into force before the end of 2002. Chapter II of the proposal regulates the importation of animal products and underlines the principle that products of animal origin from third countries must comply with the rules applicable in the Community, or with equivalent rules. In order to ensure that this is the case, lists of third countries from which the importation of animal products is permitted will be drawn up on the basis of various data, and import conditions laid down in line with the health situation in the country concerned.
The Commission is to carry out audits and inspections in third countries in order to verify compliance or equivalence with Community rules.
Under Directive 90/423/EEC of 26 June 1990 a general ban was also imposed on imports of vaccinated animals. In addition to a minimum period spent on the territory, or part of the territory, of an authorised third country (Article 10), the importation of animals requires additional guarantees whose scope varies according to the health situation in the country of provenance as regards FMD (FMD-free or not) and that country's policy for controlling and preventing FMD (vaccination or no vaccination), in accordance with the provisions of Article 6(2), as amended by Article 3 of Directive 90/423.
Imports of fresh meat are similarly subject to additional conditions concerning both the length of stay on the territory, or part of the territory, of an authorised country of the animals from which the meat was derived, and also the health situation and FMD control and prevention policy. Except in the case of FMD-free countries not practising vaccination, meat cannot be imported if it has not undergone special processing (Article 14(3)).
Lastly, specific decisions lay down the detailed rules concerning importation as regards health surveillance in the countries concerned and the situation in the zone of provenance.
Checks on imports
First of all it should be stressed once again that the EU does not import any FMD-susceptible animals from third countries which are not ‘FMD-free without vaccination’. Imports of meat from countries which are not ‘FMD-free without vaccination’ are subject to special conditions (for example, beef must be deboned and matured). Contrary to assertions which have been made in public, these conditions are no less strict than those for exports of meat from an EU Member State where FMD has broken out to another Member State. The Commission has provided a detailed illustration of this based on a comparison between rules on the importation of meat from Argentina and rules on intra-Community trade between Member States.
Council Regulation 97/78/EC of 18 December 1997 laying down the principles governing the organisation of veterinary checks on products entering the Community from third countries establishes the main rules applicable to the checks to be carried out by the Member States.
As a rule, animals and animal products may be imported only through approved border inspection posts which have the necessary staff and infrastructure to check that imports are safe in terms of public and animal health. Imports are inspected by veterinarians and documented in accordance with detailed rules.
Under Commission Decision 91/398/EEC, work also began on setting up a computerised network in the Community linking veterinary authorities in the Member States (Animo), which is also to be used for checks on imports. The network is designed to facilitate the exchange of information between the competent authorities in the Member State of destination and the competent authorities in the regions where a veterinary certificate has been issued which is to accompany the animals and animal products. The Commission, which is co-financing the setting-up of the system, has taken numerous decisions in connection with the project. Experts consider that the system still leaves room for improvement.
Council Decision 92/438/EEC of 13 July 1992 introduced the Shift system for the computerisation of veterinary import procedures. However, this system does not yet appear to be operational.
In reply to questions from the committee, the Commission has pointed out that in recent years, livestock epidemics in the EU have not been caused by products which were imported regularly and checked in the process.
The Food and Veterinary Office’s inspections of border control posts have in some cases however revealed serious shortcomings in import controls. Some examples are provided in the reports on the inspection of border inspection posts in Germany in October 2000 ((SANCO)1290/2000), in Greece in May 2001 ((SANCO)3241/2001), in the United Kingdom in October 2001 ((SANCO)3387/2001), in the Netherlands in November 2001 ((SANCO)3386/2001) and in Spain in January 2002 ((SANCO)8557/2002). Among other things, the following shortcomings are noted:
• the lack of systematic checks on inspection facilities;
• insufficient staffing levels (veterinarians and/or administrative staff);
• inadequate technical equipment;
• incomplete or incorrect transposition of Community legislation into national law;
• insufficient cooperation between the authorities concerned;
• insufficient use of the Animo system.
Checks on imports of products of animal origin by tourists are far less strict at EU airports than they are for example in the USA, Australia or New Zealand. While the risk that FMD will be brought in by tourists or in food for consumption during travel is relatively slight, it is not negligible, bearing in mind that, for example, at Heathrow airport within a period of a few days in May 2000 illegally imported food with a total weight of 3100 kg was seized during checks on passengers’ baggage, including meat from exotic animals (‘bushmeat’) and various types of fish. At Dublin airport, around two tons of illegally imported animal products are found and confiscated every month. Member States should therefore appropriately increase the number of staff performing inspections at airports in order to reduce the risk of livestock diseases being carried by means of illegal meat imports in the luggage of air passengers, and make more use of sniffer dogs to detect meat.
The type and extent of Member States’ inspection measures at the external borders of the EU to prevent imports of susceptible animals and of products derived from them from countries at risk of FMD and when there are FMD outbreaks in neighbouring countries should be uniform, in terms of both the availability of highly qualified staff and infrastructure. There must not be variations in the quality level of checks at the EU's external borders. This does not mean that there should be a downwards adjustment, but that action must be taken to ensure that the standards set in the relevant EU directives are actually met.
The 2001 FMD crisis in the EU
The origins of the crisis
The substantial increase in the number and stocking density of livestock in some regions of the EU in recent decades has increased the risk of infection of large animal populations in the EU and of correspondingly large losses to the industry and costs to the public purse because of the requisite inspection and disease control measures, as well as compensation payments. For example, the sheep herd in the UK has grown from almost 29 million in 1967 to over 42 million, mainly as a consequence of the country's accession to the EU (in contrast, there has been a slight decline in the number of cattle and pigs), whilst there was a significant drop in the number of farms. Production and marketing mechanisms in the EU encourage intensive transport of and trade in animals susceptible to FMD within the internal market, and thus the spread of animal diseases, but there has not been any corresponding expansion of inspections or veterinary systems.
The FMD outbreak in the Community in early 2001 affected four Member States, namely the UK, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.
The first case was identified in Great Britain in an abattoir in Essex on 19 February 2001 during routine ante-mortem veterinary checks. The epidemiological inquiry led to the county of Northumberland, where the first case was identified shortly afterwards. Numerous outbreaks were then found, and the crisis took the national authorities by surprise owing to the speed at which it spread and its scale.
The source of the epidemic has not been definitely identified. Inquiries by the British Government suggest that it was caused by feeding pigs on a farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall with insufficiently heat-treated, illegally imported meat products at the beginning of February 2001. The clinical symptoms of FMD among the pigs were not reported to the authorities. The virus evidently spread from the pig farm to sheep on a nearby farm, after which, probably via the Longtown sheep market and other markets, the virus spread undetected throughout the country for a space of three weeks. Suspicions have been expressed that the crisis may have arisen from different causes, but these have not been substantiated.
Transports of animals within the United Kingdom and between Member States before the Community's safeguard measures came into force helped spread the disease at a particularly busy time of year. In the UK, livestock markets were operating flat out and, in France, preparations for the feast of Eid el Kebir were in full swing, so that, 20 days after it was first detected in the UK, FMD took hold on the continent. In March and April 2001, there were two outbreaks in France, the Netherlands declared 26 outbreaks and Ireland identified one case.
Prevention and control of the crisis in the United Kingdom
Detailed information on the fight against FMD in the United Kingdom can be found in the FVO reports on inspection visits in March, April, August and October 2001 and in the inquiry reports by the British National Audit Office, the 'Lessons to be Learned Inquiry' chaired by Dr Anderson and the Royal Society review of 'Infectious Diseases in Livestock', as well as reports by regional authorities. The European Parliament's FMD Committee also received a vast amount of information in the course of its hearings and delegation visits, in the form of contributions by experts and reports on the experience of the people affected. (Summaries of the hearings held during the delegation visits can be found in Annexes 1, 2 and 3.)
The picture that emerges with regard to the key aspects of the prevention and control of FMD in the United Kingdom can be outlined as follows:
When FMD was first detected on the morning of 19 February 2001 in Cheales Abattoir, Essex, tissue and blood samples were sent to the Pirbright Laboratory for analysis. The suspicions were confirmed by a test on 20 February 2001. By that time, many pigs at the abattoir were already exhibiting clear clinical symptoms. That same day, all the pigs were slaughtered. The European Commission had placed a ban on the export from the United Kingdom of all FMD-susceptible animals and products from these animals on 21 February 2001, and the British Government introduced transport restrictions on the evening of 23 February 2001. In the meantime, the ban on exports to other Member States had inevitably led to an increase in the volume of transport on mainland Britain. The British authorities attempted to trace the movements of infected animals and implemented a control strategy at national level from 27 February 2001.
In line with the contingency plan, FMD-susceptible animals on infected farms were slaughtered along with animals which may have come into contact with the source of infection. Footpaths in the affected areas were closed. The remaining instruments to combat FMD provided for in the contingency plan were implemented. Nevertheless, FMD spread very quickly in the following weeks, particularly in Northumberland, Cumbria, Devon, Wales and Scotland, reaching a peak of around 50 outbreaks a day at the end of March 2001. The epidemic then died down. The last case was recorded on 30 September 2001, and on 22 January 2002 the United Kingdom regained its OIE status 'FMD-free without vaccination'.
The United Kingdom tackled FMD by means of a contingency plan pursuant to Article 5(2) of Directive 90/423/EEC, as approved by the Commission in 1993 and last amended in 2000; the contingency plan described how the British authorities would tackle an FMD outbreak, in particular as regards legal powers and the financial conditions for combating the disease, the command structure and the powers of the national crisis control centre and of local centres, as well as arrangements in terms of staff, diagnostic laboratories and public relations. The plan complied with the criteria laid down in Decision 91/42/EEC as outlined above. However, its effective operation had not been checked by the FVO on the spot before the start of the 2001 crisis.
The plan was based on previous experience of FMD and on the assumption that the spread of the disease would remain localised, i.e. the number of outbreaks would not exceed ten. The actual scale of the 2001 crisis far exceeded the presumed scale on which the national contingency plan and regional contingency plans were based. In the United Kingdom, there were already at least 57 outbreaks at the time of confirmation of FMD, and subsequently 12 epidemics (or mini-epidemics) occurred. No expert had reckoned with such an intensive FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom. In the light of previous experience and the foreseeable risk, it would therefore have been disproportionate to gear the FMD contingency plan and the associated human and material resources to such a large scale. However, in retrospect the contingency plan ought to have included a scenario for a serious and extensive outbreak.
Contingency plans and the logistical and staffing preparations for an outbreak of FMD or other notifiable exotic animal diseases in the United Kingdom were suffering from considerable shortcomings, according to a report of February 1999 commissioned by the state veterinary service (Drummond Report). Very little had been done to implement this report’s recommendations for remedying the shortcomings before the crisis arose, 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. The report of the inquiry chaired by Dr Anderson ('Lessons to be Learned Inquiry') also underlines the fact that, in addition to shortcomings in terms of consultation and awareness of problems, scant attention had been paid to training and simulation exercises.
As mentioned above, FVO officials had carried out an inspection visit to the United Kingdom in response to the FMD crisis in mid-March 2001. The report on the visit sets out the following conclusions (DG(SANCO)3318/2001):
1. The competent authority responded to the mission in a particularly open, and
constructive, manner, despite the considerable pressure involved in responding to the epidemic.
2. The CA (competent authority) has estimated that FMD was introduced into the UK on 2 February 2001. The inspection team did not have the opportunity to carry out an in-depth inquiry to assess the validity of this assumption.
3. In relation to certain specific technical issues, Council Directive 85/5 1 1/EEC has not been fully transposed into national law. However, the CA stated that the existing national legislation gives them full powers to implement Directive requirements.
4. There has been a significant fall in the number of full-time veterinary staff employed in the SVS (State Veterinary Service) during the last 20 years. It was clear that the number of official veterinarians in the SVS at the start of the epidemic was insufficient to deal with the rapid increase in the number of outbreaks and the associated control and eradication activities. At the time of the mission, there was still a significant shortfall in veterinary numbers, despite great efforts to recruit additional staff. This meant that the SVS was unable to "get ahead" of the disease, and had not been able to prevent its spread through large parts of Great Britain.
5. A number of elements that existed before the epidemic will need to be considered in the final analysis to be made concerning the speed and extent of its spread. These include:
- the failure to transpose and enforce Council Directive 92/102/EEC has made the identification and tracing of sheep very difficult (Rapporteur's note: the British Government informed the rapporteur in September 2002 that Directive 92/102 had been transposed into British law in January 2001, i.e. before the crisis).
- the volume and extent of sheep movements between markets and dealers, and the mixing of animals from many different sources
- unrecorded sales in the margins of markets
- inadequate controls over animal dealers, including the incomplete nature of some movement records
- the practice of removing sheep and cattle from slaughterhouses for movement to other premises
- the failure to enforce disinfection of livestock vehicles at markets.
6. The organisational response of the UK authorities to the outbreak of FMD has been efficient and effective at both central and local level. The speed with which both the central and local disease control centres have been established was impressive. Staff at all levels involved in the efforts to control and eradicate the disease have been working long hours frequently under very difficult conditions. Their determination and expertise was particularly noticeable, and has contributed significantly to avoiding an even worse disease picture.
7. The necessary restriction measures have been applied to suspected and infected holdings in a timely and proper manner. (Rapporteur's note: This positive assessment appears to contradict the many painful experiences of the people affected, which will be considered below. Nevertheless, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that action to control FMD had to be taken under the extremely difficult initial conditions already described, and with the limited means available.)
8. In some cases, there had been unacceptable delays in dealing with infected premises, from the identification of suspect disease, through to its confirmation, and the slaughter and disposal of animals. These have not only led to an increased risk of spread of disease, but also undermined public confidence in the effectiveness of the slaughter programme.
9. The initial reluctance to consider preventive slaughter of "at-risk" holdings (within l km of an infected premises) is likely to have delayed the eradication of the disease, and has risked its spread to neighbouring holdings in some areas.
10. Further attention should be given to the role that might be played in the maintenance and/or spread of FMD by the presence of susceptible wild animals in those parts of the country where foci of the disease have been found.
11. There has been an undue reliance on farmers to inspect and report suspicion of FMD on farms which have been identified as "at risk" following tracings from known infected premises.
12. There is a small number of infected premises for which no clear origin has yet been established.
13. There are insufficient controls over the procedure for the movement of animals from disease-free areas direct to slaughter. The widespread and very active nature of the disease means that assumptions based upon the disease status of an area cannot be considered as a reliable basis for authorising such movements. Furthermore, this also implies that the meat of animals sent for slaughter under the licence scheme, but where the holding of origin was subsequently found to be infected, or included in a protection or surveillance zone, may need to be traced and, possibly, destroyed.
14. The breakdown of the CENTAUR computer system in late 2000 raises questions as to its reliability, and whether other Member States were fully notified of all animals moved out of the UK during and shortly after this period.
15. The Institute of Animal Health at Pirbright has the capacity, organisation and expertise to deal with the quantity of samples being submitted during the present outbreak. However, the anticipated departure of some of its permanent senior scientists may make it difficult to maintain the skills required of a world reference laboratory.
16. The practice of allowing the burial of catering waste from international transport in landfill sites poses a risk of disease introduction."
Leaving aside the problems listed by the FVO, the government's response to the outbreak was also hindered by the complexity of the structures and organisation of the public service (government and administrative bodies) in the UK. In addition, the epidemic broke out at a time when the Ministry of Agriculture was being restructured. This made it even more difficult to control the epidemic in a coordinated manner.
The British authorities nevertheless achieved a tangible improvement in the efficiency of their measures to control FMD in the course of the epidemic. The FVO noted in a summary of its second visit from 23 to 27 April 2001 (SANCO 3328/2001) that:
'A significant improvement has been made in the scale and efficiency of the FMD
eradication campaign since the last FVO mission in March 2001 and most of the
recommendations made at that time have been addressed. The time required to
identify, slaughter and dispose of animals has been reduced to the deadlines set in
national operational guidelines in most areas of the country. In contrast, however, the
easing of movement restrictions, and the changes to culling policy on contiguous
premises, must be seen against evidence that there remain weaknesses in the controls
applied and that the disease situation may not be yet fully under control. Community
legislation has been properly transposed. However, implementation (particularly
veterinary controls at dairy establishments) could be improved.'
The disease control measures were evidently more successful in Scotland (County of Dumfries and Galloway) than in other areas, because lines of communication were shorter and the approach adopted was one of integrated contingency planning and implementation (political decisions and logistic control located primarily at regional level, although, in accordance with special agreements within the State, the State veterinary service also performed in Scotland the duties for which they provided). Success in controlling FMD in Scotland was not based solely on good and close cooperation between the various authorities involved, however, but also on the early and extensive involvement of farmers in the action taken. In addition, since the Lockerbie air disaster, special procedures had been developed for responding to crises. However, the total number of cases of FMD was in any case smaller in Scotland than in Cumbria, for example.
Apart from the above shortcomings, a series of other circumstances significantly hindered FMD control in the United Kingdom. With regard to the feeding of swill to farm animals and controls on waste food from prohibited sources, the FVO noted in October 2001 – DG (SANCO)3367/2001 – that: 'The Animal By-Products (Amendment) (England) Order 2001 (SI 2001/1704) was brought into force on 24 May 2001, effectively introducing an abrupt ban on swill feeding. Similar legislation has been implemented in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It should be noted, however, that the provisions of Council Directive 80/217/EEC, article 15, were not fully transposed into GB legislation prior the ban on swill feeding.'
The cut in the number of staff in the state veterinary service was a key weakness at the start of the crisis (as mentioned by the FVO), although according to the British Government the number of official vets normally working in the field had changed little in recent years. However, this considerable cut in the number of staff employed by the state veterinary service has been accompanied by the closure of local veterinary centres and a concentration on regional centres, which has inevitably resulted in a loss of knowledge of local conditions. Overall, this has weakened the capacity for responding to the crisis, particularly as the number of livestock has increased significantly over the same period. At the beginning of the epidemic, there were consequently not enough staff to cope with the rapidly growing number of infected farms and carry out the requisite inspection and eradication measures. Accordingly, hundreds of foreign vets had to be deployed. This was done very quickly and led to a considerable improvement in disease control, but gave rise to confusion and uncertainty among farmers, partly on account of linguistic communication problems.
Numerous statements indicate that the British Government’s information policy was inadequate, both before and during the crisis. The content of the contingency plan was not known to the public at the beginning of the outbreak or for some time during it (it was not placed on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture until August 2001). At the beginning of the outbreak the Ulster Farmers’ Union did not even know that a contingency plan existed. The provision of information from state sources to local bodies and the farmers affected was poor, according to statements by those concerned, and advice from the various government departments was repeatedly altered, inconsistent or even contradictory, for example in relation to the closing of footpaths in affected areas. During the committee delegation visit to the United Kingdom in April 2002, many farmers referred to specific weaknesses in communication: they pointed out that there was no special telephone number to call to report sources of infection, so that the only numbers available were constantly engaged; they also stressed the difficult relations between local vets and government veterinary services, and in particular the absence of a public inquiry, which was seen as a further sign of the lack of openness and communication on the part of the government.
The following complaints were made again and again during the committee delegation visits: bureaucratic and formalistic procedures for obtaining compensation, recurrent delays in decision-making and carrying out of measures by the authorities, particularly in connection with the disposal of animal carcasses, the lack of effective contingency plans, inadequately informed veterinary staff, staff shortages at the locally established disease control units, and violations of animal welfare legislation during culls and in connection with the ‘standstill’. In individual cases, it was also reported that farmers who were affected had been intimidated and pressurised in connection with the culls. 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.
Much public criticism also centred on the fact that the British Government did not impose a national ban on the movement of animals until three days after the first suspected case had been confirmed. In retrospect, many outbreaks could certainly have been prevented by a more rapid ban. Professor Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh made the following comment in this connection: 'If we had imposed a national movement ban on 20 February 2001, three days earlier, our estimation is that the epidemic would have been between 1/3 and = that it actually was.'
In the situation at the time, however, a nationwide movement ban as soon as the first suspected case had been recorded would rightly have been seen as being disproportionate. It should also be borne in mind that the first attempt to trace the source of the disease had pointed to the Isle of Wight, which had experienced an outbreak in 1982, so that a general movement ban for the entire British mainland did not appear appropriate. Nobody could have suspected on 20 February 2001 that FMD had already been spreading undetected in the country for between two and three weeks. This possibility must nevertheless be taken into account in future.
The measures taken by the British Government (slaughtering susceptible animals at farms where FMD was detected and animals which had come into contact with the sources of infection) had initially proved unable to prevent the disease from continuing to spread and eventually getting out of control four weeks after it was first detected, as the epidemiological models used unanimously found. The number of infected farms doubled from week to week.
The appropriateness of the models used to predict the course of the epidemic remains scientifically controversial. In particular, the models were criticised for the fact that they wrongly assumed that the spread of the virus was chiefly air-borne. However, the mode of transmission of the virus did not play any part in the models, according to statements by the head of the British Government’s scientific advisory group. The four models used ultimately resulted in the proposal at the end of March 2001 for 24/48 hours contiguous culls (i.e. slaughtering susceptible animals at infected farms within 24 hours of the infection’s being diagnosed and slaughtering susceptible animals at neighbouring farms within 48 hours). This measure was intended to ensure (and the models used were geared to this aim) that the average number of newly infected farms to which the disease had spread from a farm already infected was pushed below 1. In other words: the cull strategy could be considered effective only if each infected farm spread the disease to less than one other farm.
From the end of March 2001, when the 24/48 hours contiguous cull strategy was implemented and the army was deployed to overcome logistical problems, the number of new cases began to fall and the most urgent problems in disposing of animal carcasses were solved.
However, it remains controversial and doubtful whether the 24/48 hours contiguous cull strategy (and thus the model on which it was based) was really responsible for curbing the epidemic (halting the increase in the number of cases and bringing about a decrease); apart from any other consideration, in many cases it proved impossible to carry out the culls on neighbouring farms within 48 hours (the 'Lessons to be Learned Inquiry' chaired by Dr Anderson estimated that the 48 hours cull was never implemented at a rate over 50%). Experts take the view that the course of the epidemic shows that the spread of infection had already passed its peak before the 24/48 hours contiguous cull was introduced. However, the course of the epidemic from April 2001 onwards largely accorded with predictions from models.
The mass culls, including the 24/48 hours contiguous culls, caused enormous problems of disposing of animal carcasses.
The deployment of the army, particularly to provide logistical support in disposing of animal carcasses, took place only at a relatively late stage, when the epidemic was already out of control and, in some cases, dead animals had been lying on the affected farms for days.
In addition, technical infrastructure for the disposal of the carcasses was inadequate, so that the authorities were forced to bury animal carcasses in mass burial sites at selected locations or burn them on huge pyres. The selection of burial locations was sometimes made without adequate consultation of local authorities and posed considerable risks to the environment and drinking water. For example, work began on preparing a burial pit in Ash Moor, Petrockstowe, where the groundwater level was only around one meter below the surface. The plan had to be abandoned owing to the risk to drinking water. In addition, people living near the pyres were seriously affected by emissions produced when the animals were burnt (smoke particles and smell). Television pictures of the burning pyres and mass burial pits also shocked the public on animal welfare grounds and had a catastrophic impact on tourism in those areas. These problems could perhaps have been reduced by means of suppressive vaccinations on neighbouring farms or within a certain radius of infected farms, as the example of the Netherlands shows (for vaccinations, see below).
The mass culls and movement of carcasses to mass burial or incineration sites also gave rise to a risk of accidental further transmission of the virus via the staff deployed or their equipment and on account of the transport of slaughtered animal carcasses through uninfected areas. However, there is no definite evidence that such transmission actually occurred.
In a number of cases the carrying-out of the 24/48 hours contiguous cull may have involved violations of animal welfare legislation because of the pressure of time to which it gave rise. It was reported that unnecessary pain and suffering had been inflicted on animals because of the inexpert performance of staff, some of whom were not adequately trained. The temporary ban on animal movements also placed the animals under considerable stress.
The committee delegation hearings revealed the anguish suffered by the farming communities affected as a result of the stamping out policy and the 24/28 hours contiguous cull:
- farmers suffered from the destruction of their livestock;
- farmers were penalised by the ban on moving animals, sometimes prevented from feeding them or deprived of income from their sale or from farm tourism;
- managers and employees of livestock markets were forced to close for months on end;
- the tourism and leisure industries were hard hit by loss of clients;
- small businesses and industries suffered the knock-on effects.
The situation of some of them was aggravated by the fact that no compensation was provided for losses suffered as a result of the crisis. Farmers and other professionals, particularly representatives of the leisure industry, gave moving testimony to this: farms were laid waste and the situation of the tourism industry catastrophic, in regions where employment was highly dependent on these activities. As well as tourism and agriculture, the whole local economy had suffered from the crisis because of a general decline in business, employment and investment.
A number of speakers put across something of the severe psychological and social impact of the crisis, talking about the feelings of anger, frustration and abandonment experienced by the rural community as a whole. The insidious confrontation between farmers and other professionals and also among farmers themselves was mentioned, fuelled by compensation rules which did not reflect the real damage suffered by the various sectors of the economy.
The legality of the 24/48 hours contiguous cull was questioned repeatedly. The 3 km cull which was ordered in Cumbria and in Dumfries and Galloway, which entailed culling sheep, pigs and goats within a 3 km radius of an infected farm, may not have had a basis in domestic law, irrespective of the question of the practicability and proportionality of this measure. However, only the courts can definitively determine whether the 3 km cull was legal. According to the British Government, the legality of this measure has been confirmed by the British courts. It is not apparent that this is either explicitly permitted or explicitly prohibited at European level. It should however be pointed out that the proposal for Directive 85/511/EEC originally made explicit provision for the possibility of culling FMD-susceptible animals on neighbouring farms. Evidently owing to an editing error, this power was not included in the text adopted. An interpretation of the Directive according to its purpose would nevertheless be likely to conclude that culling on neighbouring farms should be possible. Moreover, the 3 km cull was discussed at the time by the Commission's Standing Veterinary Committee. No objections were made within the Standing Committee on the grounds that this measure contravened EU law.
A bitter public debate took place during and after the crisis on the question of whether the government should have ordered emergency vaccinations instead of the exclusive culling strategy, and in particular the 24/48 hours contiguous culls. The issue of vaccination was inevitably an acute one, given the vast numbers of slaughtered animals and immense problems encountered in disposing of carcasses, and the ensuing impact on the people affected.
In Cumbria, from the end of March/beginning of April 2001, vaccinating cattle was an option recommended by the Chief Scientific Adviser to the government and the Chief Veterinary Officer on condition that certain criteria were complied with, including that of support from farmers. The European Commission in fact authorised vaccinations on 30 March 2001 at the British Government's request. Surprisingly, no action was taken in response, even though the government stated on 18 April 2001 that vaccination was still being considered. It is unclear how the government's views took shape after authorisation was issued. In the end the government did not consider the emergency vaccination option practicable, because it did not enjoy sufficient support from the National Farmers’ Union or the food trade (apart from the concern that it would be impossible to market products from vaccinated animals, some farmers’ opposition to vaccinations was evidently due to the mistaken belief that EU law prohibited the payment of compensation for the possible loss of value of vaccinated animals). Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions affecting the wellbeing of whole regions in the management of the FMD outbreak in the UK in 2001. This is all the more worrying because fears in the food trade that consumers would not accept products from vaccinated livestock were unsubstantiated. In the end, moreover, the costs to the public purse and the sometimes devastating impact on other economic sectors such as tourism in the areas affected were far higher than the economic benefits arising from the culling policy and the more rapid regaining of FMD-free without vaccination status. The 'Lessons to be Learned' report by the inquiry chaired by Dr Anderson puts the loss to the tourist industry alone at between 2.7 and 3.2 billion pounds, with government spending on FMD control amounting to 2.8 billion pounds (of which 1.3 billion pounds was compensation for farmers following the culling of their livestock). By comparison, annual total revenue from exports of live animals and animal products from the United Kingdom stands at 1.3 billion pounds.
The British Government's approach to the decision on emergency vaccination gives cause for concern with regard to future FMD outbreaks. It is not acceptable that all the strategic and operational preparations for the use of emergency vaccinations, which place a considerable financial burden on the public purse, should come to nothing because of opposition from circles with specific economic interests of their own. The strategy for controlling FMD must therefore be based on a cost-benefit analysis and involve all those affected in the definition of criteria, and it must be geared to providing an incentive for everyone to back whichever policy will most benefit the common good.
FMD control in the Netherlands
FMD was detected in the Netherlands on 21 March 2001. The disease had been brought into the country with a consignment of calves from Ireland which arrived in the Netherlands on 24 February 2001. The calves had been held during the night of 23-24 February at a staging post in Baroche Gondoin in the French department of Mayenne along with British sheep on which serological tests subsequently proved to be FMD-positive.
The first two cases were detected on dairy farms in the province of Overijssel, followed by 18 cases in the province of Gelderland. On 11 and 12 April 2001 FMD was unexpectedly found again on two farms relatively far away in the province of Friesland. The crisis remained restricted to the provinces of Friesland, Gelderland and Overijssel. The last case was recorded on 22 April 2001 and export restrictions within the EU were lifted on 26 June 2002; OIE status as 'FMD free without vaccination' was regained on 25 August 2001.
When FMD was confirmed in the United Kingdom, a ban was placed on movements of sheep and goats in the Netherlands; livestock markets, shows and other events where animals could have come in contact were closed or cancelled. When FMD was detected in France, the Netherlands imposed a total ban on movements of all cloven-hoofed animals. When FMD was found in the Netherlands, a 72-hour general ban was imposed on the transport of animals, which was then lifted for uninfected areas once the source of infection had been identified (under Commission Decision 2001/223/EC of 21 March 2001, the Netherlands were split up into uninfected areas and infected areas, in which the transport of animals was banned and animal products were subject to special treatment before they were permitted to leave the area).
The Netherlands (in cooperation with the Commission) started by deploying all the standard instruments of FMD control (transport restrictions, disinfection, access restrictions, etc.). As soon as FMD had been confirmed in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands slaughtered all sheep and deer imported from the UK as a preventive measure.
When a case of FMD was confirmed on a farm, all animals on the farm concerned, on neighbouring farms and animals suspected of having come into contact with the source of infection were slaughtered. 3 km protection zones were put in place around infected farms, within which all farms with FMD-susceptible animals were tested and transport was banned, together with 10 km surveillance zones in which transport restrictions were in force.
Unlike the United Kingdom, the Netherlands employed emergency vaccination in order to stop the spread of the FMD virus. At the country's request, the Commission had authorised emergency vaccinations in the form of suppressive vaccination of FMD-susceptible animals (i.e. where the vaccinated animals were culled as soon as the bottlenecks as regards the capacity for slaughtering and disposing of carcasses had been overcome) and in the form of protective vaccination for cattle (without the vaccinated animals being subsequently culled). Protective vaccination was permitted within a 25 km radius of the town of Oene.
Most of the animals culled in the Netherlands were pigs, followed by cattle and sheep.
The organisation of measures to control FMD in the Netherlands was based on experience of the swine fever crisis. The FMD contingency plan clearly assigned responsibilities and laid down procedures, with decisions being taken centrally and implemented regionally, although local and regional expertise received too little recognition.
However, the decision to set up the crisis management organisation was taken only when the first outbreak occurred; it took several days to build up the regional organisation – staff and facilities – so that valuable time was lost before the implementing organisation was completely operational and effective in carrying out the veterinary measures and developing a network of contacts with other parties concerned in the region.
The Netherlands’ strategy was one of eradicating the FMD virus as quickly as possible in order to regain ‘FMD-free without vaccination’ status; the government accepted as a necessary evil the resultant strong social and psychological impact on rural communities. The mass culls caused considerable public indignation in the Netherlands; in particular, many dairy farmers and smallholders who kept and bred animals as a hobby argued in favour of prophylactic vaccination instead of culls.
At times, there was insufficient capacity to carry out the measures, which led to unwanted changes in the implementation plans.
In the Netherlands too, one important shortcoming in the FMD control measures was the authorities’ inadequate coordination and information policy and the lack of arrangements to enable the farmers concerned to contact the state agencies responsible.
The Netherlands used the ‘ring vaccination’ concept to bring the epidemic under control. All livestock within the vaccination ring were ultimately slaughtered in order for exports to resume at an early stage. In the end, around 10 000 animals were slaughtered per infected farm in the Netherlands, as against 2000 in the UK, although this was also due to the particularly high stocking density in the Netherlands and to the fact that, in the area around Oene, vaccination was planned and authorised for a wide radius (25 km) as an emergency-vaccination measure with the aim of ensuring that the vaccinated animals could continue to be used as normal.
During its visit to the affected areas in the Netherlands, the delegation from the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease found clear evidence of the serious impact the crisis had on the people concerned:
With regard to vaccination, misinformation and the lack of clarity of the information available seem to have had a major influence: according to the speakers at the hearings, the rural community thought that a vaccination policy would be implemented as soon as the first pockets of infection appeared and that, when it was implemented, this would be done in such a way as to keep the animals alive, while, in fact, the measures adopted resulted in the slaughter of all susceptible animals, including pets. This caused a lot of distress, particularly since the owners of most of the animals slaughtered did not consider them to have been infected.
In Friesland, village people handed the delegation petitions calling for a vaccination policy to be used in place of the systematic slaughter of animals and made clear - albeit in a very peaceful fashion, singing and waving flowers and balloons - that they were firmly opposed to the policy of mass slaughter and that they would not be so docile in the future if their message was not listened to. In the public meetings, representatives of the central government, the local authorities and trade organisations, as well as practitioners, drew attention to the need for a level-headed debate, to clarify the various positions. However, by turning out in such large numbers, the local population showed that such a debate could not be restricted to institutional and trade spheres and that any new strategy (the need for which was universally acknowledged) had to be acceptable to society as a whole.
The FVO drew the following conclusions from its inspection visit to evaluate the situation regarding emergency vaccinations of 4 to 7 April 2001 (DG(SANCO)3324/2001):
'The Dutch authorities have a very comprehensive contingency plan in place. This was put into operation in an extremely efficient manner. This has involved a massive logistical operation with vast resources of people, equipment and materials being deployed. The vaccination programme has been well planned and executed. A decision needs to be taken over the immediate destruction of part-used bottles of vaccine (..).The existence of large numbers of unregistered small holdings raises questions as to whether disease controls can be rapidly applied to all susceptible animals. The failure to record the identification details of all vaccinated animals, and to correlate them with farm details on the central database, risks undermining the controls applied to these animals. It is clear that in the affected area there is considerable opposition to the culling of animals. The culling of animals in the three kilometre protection zones outside the extended vaccination zone has started. All animals in the three kilometre protection zones around infected premises in the extended vaccination zone, and all susceptible species other than cattle in the extended vaccination zone will be culled. However, a decision on the culling of bovine animals in other parts of the extended vaccination zone had not been taken at the time of the mission .
The Dutch authorities have adopted a policy of recording all actions as they occur
with the intention of subsequent correlation and validation of data. The opportunity
to cross check information at the time of action is not being taken....
The response of the Dutch authorities to the outbreaks, once the first case was
identified, has been rapid and efficient. Equally, the vaccination programme is very
well organised. The hostility shown to proposals to cull vaccinated cattle is a cause
for concern both in disease control terms and, in the future, in relation to its potential
impact on the FMD status of The Netherlands, and hence its trading position ......'
It became clear during the visit by the delegation from the Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease that the lack of specific aid for the areas affected and of compensation for the loss of income caused by the closure of markets and restrictions on animal movements gave rise to a feeling among the inhabitants of the areas affected of having been abandoned and cut off, as well as to exasperation among the farming community, which was obliged to bow to the police and the army and to government 'threats' that financial compensation would be cut.
The amounts withheld from the financial compensation created a difficult situation and in some cases jeopardised the survival of farms unable to replace the lost animals. The penalties, which were the result of incorrect implementation of the biosecurity measures, were neither understood nor accepted. A large number of breeders felt them to be unjustified (given that no similar penalties were imposed in the United Kingdom) and disproportionate, after all the efforts they felt they had made to ensure that the government measures were properly applied.
In addition to hitting the farming sector, the FMD crisis had severely affected tourist activities in the Netherlands. However, other ancillary activities had also been severely disrupted (transport, business, retail trade, associations, etc.) by the restrictions on the movement of persons and the sealing off of the areas affected. Owing to the failure to provide compensation for all the damage caused by the crisis, it had proved difficult to make good the financial losses incurred.
The crisis had had a considerable emotional and psychological impact on those directly affected - the breeders (both professional and amateur) and their families. In addition to the breeders, who had felt desperate and psychologically isolated, all social life had been destroyed at the height of the crisis. Tensions had also appeared between the farms that had been affected and those that had been spared. Several speakers confirmed to the delegation from the Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease the uncertainty and in some cases frustration and anger felt by the breeders, a feeling exacerbated by the financial penalties and the concern that the same approach might be adopted towards a future crisis.
In some cases, the Netherlands’ rules on the reduction of compensation for farmers did result in extreme cuts. The systems of compensation and deductions from it in the event of livestock epidemics vary so widely within the EU as to give rise to a danger of distortion of competition (see the section on compensation below).
The Dutch Government has modified its view of the FMD control strategy since the 2001 crisis. It recognises that, in addition to the veterinary control aspect, the fight against FMD also has a social dimension of which greater account must be taken in the event of a future outbreak.
FMD control in France
The first case of clinical symptoms of FMD in France occurred on 12 March 2001 at a farm around 500 m away from a staging post for animal transports near the village of Baroche-Gondouin.
Immediately after the first outbreak in the UK was reported, the French authorities activated the FMD contingency plan at national and regional level and set up crisis staffs, involving the relevant professional organisations.
In France too, FMD was combated by means of preventive culls combined with serological tests and a temporary ban on the movement of susceptible livestock, without resorting to vaccination. Following the two FMD outbreaks in France, susceptible animals were slaughtered within a 3 km radius of the farms concerned.
Measures to control FMD in France in 2001 were efficient and successful, although here too it was recognised that the identification and registration of sheep needed to be improved. It may be noted that the economic and social consequences did not play any significant role in the strategy for controlling FMD in France either. Plans for controlling FMD should take account of possible public resistance to large-scale culls in the event of a major outbreak.
Following its inspection visit of 2-6 April 2001 (DG(SANCO) 3323/2001) the FVO came to the following conclusions (extracts):
'The Direction Ginirale de l'Alimentation, Ministhre de l'Agriculture et de la Pjche [Directorate-General for Food at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries] has a good infrastructure, is well organised and has a clear chain of command. The organisation was clear and unambiguous and provided for rapid and adequate decisions. The coordination of the response in Dipartement 53 (Mayenne) was directed with the personal supervision of the prefect. The resources available to him (e.g. fire service, police) were effectively used in combating the outbreak. A significant amount of assistance was provided by the farmers' organisation "Groupement de Difense Sanitaire" – GDS [Health Protection Association]. The veterinary services in the Dipartement of Val D'Oise, whilst similarly structured, undertook much of the initial work without the assistance of other government departments (e.g. fire service) nor the help of the GDS, as the holdings under investigation, were not members of this organisation. The ability to respond to a FMD outbreak may vary considerably between areas/Dipartements. Nonetheless, the action taken by the national authorities controlled the two recognised outbreaks of disease. Infected animals were euthanased and disposed of in a timely fashion........
...The response by the French authorities was initiated promptly and most elements of the contingency plans were successfully put into operation. Some specific shortcomings were identified, however, which could increase the risk of disease spread.....
...Much effort has been made by the national disease control centre "cellule fihvre aphteuse" [FMD unit], in cooperation with local disease control centres, to trace animals within France and beyond. As a result, many (though not all) animals imported from the UK and Ireland have been located. It had been established that calves destined for a farm subsequently associated with an outbreak in the Netherlands stopped at the staging point in the Dipartement of Mayenne for 12 hours on 23 February 2001. The initial assumption had been that they became infected at this point. However, it is not possible to make a definitive statement of this question, in view of the uncertainties associated with the epidemiology of the disease in this instance.
These efforts have been compromised by a) the weakness of existing controls at a variety of levels (e.g. inadequate supervision of staging posts and of traders operating on an occasional basis), b) the incomplete implementation of Council Directive 92/102/EC (presence of small unregistered flocks with unidentified animals) and c) unavailable, missing or erroneous information from the ANIMO system.
Dealers are not always obliged to supply the CCA, upon request, all information on the origin, identification, and where appropriate the destination of animals he has owned, kept, transported, marketed or slaughtered as required by Article 4(3) of Council Directive 92/102/EEC and Article 12 (3) of Council Directive 85/511/EEC....'
The issue of unequal compensation for harm suffered (compensation for farmers whose livestock was culled, but no compensation for losses incurred as a result of bans on movement) is also relevant in France.
FMD control in Ireland
An outbreak of FMD in sheep was confirmed at a premises in Meigh, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, on 1 March 2001, at a distance of approximately 2 km from the border with Ireland. A 3 km control zone and a 10 km protection zone were established in Northern Ireland extending to Co. Louth, on the border with Northern Ireland.
On 22 March 2001, FMD was confirmed on a holding in Broughattin,Co. Louth, Ireland. This holding was 8 km south of the infected premises in Northern Ireland. The holding had been subject to the nationwide ban on the movement of susceptible species since 28 February 2001, and was located within the protection zone of the outbreak in Northern Ireland. Controls were further reinforced to contain the disease – including the slaughter of all susceptible species on the infected premises within 24 hours, a cull of all susceptible species within 1 km of the infected premises within 36 hours and the introduction of control and surveillance zones in Co. Louth and the sealing off of Louth for trading purposes.
An extension of the cull was undertaken of all sheep and wildlife (wild goats / deer) in the Cooley Peninsula and adjacent areas and of cattle at risk in the area around the outbreak.
Following confirmation of an outbreak of FMD in Britain on 20 February 2001, the Irish authorities had already activated contingency arrangements to prevent the spread of this disease to Ireland. The measures adopted included inter alia:
an immediate ban on the import of live susceptible animals and of their products from the UK (including Northern Ireland);
the sealing of the borders with the United Kingdom / Northern Ireland and at ports and airports using police, military and Department of Agriculture officials;
disinfection of vehicles at the border and of vehicles and personnel at ports and airports;
the tracing and destruction of all imports of live susceptible species imported from the United Kingdom since 1 February (the estimated earliest possible date of infection in the United Kingdom).
The authorities in the Republic of Ireland were forewarned by the outbreaks on the British mainland and were able to prepare themselves very well for the outbreak of FMD. Cooperation and coordination between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland went smoothly, and it was largely thanks to this that the FMD outbreaks remained very small in the region. The measures were effective and efficient.
The conclusions from the FVO inspection visit to Ireland in May 2001 (DG(SANCO) 3333/2001) state, inter alia:
'The Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, DAFRD, Veterinary Service, the competent authority for FMD eradication, has a good structure, a direct line of command and responded very effectively to the disease outbreak.
Sufficient technical expertise and personnel were available to deal with the outbreak.
In response to the outbreaks of FMD in the UK (GB and NI), there was a massive deployment of state resources to prevent the introduction of FMD into Ireland. This, in conjunction with a very positive public response has been successful in excluding the disease, with the exception of the one outbreak close to the border with NI...
An approved contingency plan was in place. This plan had been updated on a regular basis and formed the basis for the response to the disease outbreak.
...Prior to the FMD outbreak, Council Directive 92/102/EEC had not been implemented in Ireland in relation to the identification of sheep and goats. A new system, which would meet the requirements of this legislation, is currently being introduced.
Some deficiencies in the control and recording of the movements of bovine animals were identified by the mission team...'
In its summary, the FVO observes that:
'The response of the Irish authorities to the presence of FMD in the UK was prompt and vigorous. A high level of awareness of the risks was achieved through these actions.
The uncontrolled movement of sheep across the UK (NI) - Ireland border prior to the FMD outbreaks represents a potential health risk. Existing bilateral efforts to detect and prevent this trade need to be given a high priority.
All necessary actions to eradicate FMD from Ireland were taken and remained in place at the time of the mission.
The failure of the Irish authorities to enforce effectively Council Directive 92/102/EEC in relation to the identification of sheep and goats represents a serious non-compliance with Community law.'
The Irish authorities have since transposed Directive 92/102/EEC into national law.
Ireland regained its status 'as a FMD free country where vaccination is not practised' on 22 June 2001. This was subsequently confirmed by the OIE on 19 September 2001.
Apart from the activation of emergency plans and implementation of Directive 85/511/EEC, Member States can use a set of fairly radical and extensive control or prevention measures, to which are added the decisions taken by the Commission.
The confirmation of the first case in the UK provoked more or less vigorous responses from its Community partners. FMD surveillance systems were introduced, along with precautionary and preventive measures adapted to take account of the volume of trade in livestock and the development of the crisis. Countries that had imported animals from the UK slaughtered livestock which could have come into direct or indirect contact with the virus. Identical measures were adopted in respect of imports from other countries affected by FMD. Measures to restrict the movement of animals and bans on imports of animals and/or untreated animal products from infected countries were imposed.
At the Community level, the system introduced by the Commission to control FMD consisted in applying Directive 85/511/EEC with immediate effect. The Commission issued forty or so decisions, in line with the progress of the epidemic and the intensity of outbreaks. The Commission adopted a flexible, case-by-case, regionalised approach to eradicating FMD, enabling it to relax the measures taken, or else to extend them or tighten them up, depending on the situation in question and the development of the epidemic.
Broadly speaking, this Community system consists of:
- a ban on the movement of live animals of susceptible species from regions or countries affected by FMD to other regions, Member States and third countries;
- a ban on exporting and placing on the market susceptible products (fresh meat, unpasteurised milk and dairy products, skins and other animal products of susceptible species from countries or regions affected or considered to be at risk to other regions, Member States or third countries, subject to a number of exceptions (especially as regards processed products);
- a Community-wide ban on markets and collecting centres for susceptible species;
- a temporary ban throughout the European Union on the transport of livestock of susceptible species, except for transport to slaughterhouses or from 'farm to farm' subject to authorisation by the competent authorities of each Member State;
- measures for disinfecting the wheels of vehicles moving from affected countries to other Member States;
- authorisation of emergency vaccination (suppressive vaccination and protective vaccination) under certain conditions in the Netherlands, by way of precaution, given the extremely high stocking density there;
- authorisation, subject to certain conditions, for the UK to use emergency vaccination (with the aim of subsequently using the animals as normal) in the worst affected regions (an option ultimately not taken up by the UK authorities);
- inspection missions by the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office;
- case-by-case, partial, gradual and regionalised lifting of restrictions.
The Commission responded to the crisis immediately and took the necessary decisions. In the course of the crisis, it promptly altered and documented its decisions on the basis of the opinions of the Standing Veterinary Committee in the light of events. No shortcomings have been identified in the Commission’s management of the crisis. The high quality of the Commission’s work in controlling the crisis has also been expressly stressed by the national veterinary authorities of Member States concerned.
Apart from checks carried out when approval was originally granted, the Commission failed to review the Member States’ contingency plans within an appropriate period following the introduction of the ban on prophylactic vaccination in 1992. At the time of the 2001 crisis it had still not reviewed the contingency plans of the UK, the Netherlands or France.
The Community embargo on British exports of live animals of susceptible species and animal products and on exports from other Member States affected by FMD triggered the introduction of similar measures in the majority of third countries. Some countries, however, were quick to adopt even more radical measures, extending the scope of restrictions to include other animals or products from countries affected by FMD, or even the whole Community. Others kept their embargoes in place well after the lifting of the Community bans, pending restoration of FMD-free status to the countries concerned.
The USA, which has not recorded a case of FMD since 1929, stepped up checks on imported animals and meat - exclusively from FMD-free countries - once the first cases in the UK were announced. Purchases of pigs from Europe (especially Denmark, the biggest supplier after Canada) ceased immediately. The FMD crisis, following as it did on the heels of BSE, turned out to be a real godsend for the latter, giving them the opportunity to strengthen their position on the Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
FMD control in third countries
Systematic preventive vaccination is practised in many countries where FMD is endemic. Given that the export of animals and animal products to countries with 'FMD free without vaccination' status is prohibited or hindered by strict conditions, export-based countries such as Argentina and Uruguay have also sought to achieve this highest OIE status.
In recent years, emergency vaccinations in conjunction with extensive culls have rapidly eradicated the disease in Albania (1996), Korea and South Africa (2000), and Uruguay (2001).
The way in which Uruguay tackled FMD in 2001 demonstrates the considerable positive aspects of emergency vaccination without subsequent slaughter in the event of a widespread outbreak, although local conditions there are not comparable to those in the EU. Thanks to mass vaccination of 10 million cattle, accompanied by movement restrictions, the disease was eradicated within 15 weeks. Only just under 7000 animals were slaughtered. The human impact was limited and the cost of eradicating the disease (vaccines, disinfection, compensation for farmers) totalled only USD 13.6 m. Even though, as pointed out above, the situation in Uruguay is not comparable to that in the EU (differences as regards livestock density, stockbreeding's share in the gross domestic product and the risk of bringing FMD into the country, no compensation for farmers in the event of a cull, etc.), the conclusions which can be drawn from the country's experience with vaccination programmes may well be of use to the EU. These concern, in particular, the cost to the public purse, the psychological and social impact and the repercussions on non-agricultural sectors of the economy such as tourism.
Compensation measures and budgetary aspects
The FMD crisis provoked an immense upheaval amongst the rural population, especially in the UK. The question of assistance was therefore raised very quickly so as to compensate for the losses of livestock that had been sustained, but also to avoid serial bankruptcy in a profession that had already been badly affected.
A Community system of compensation exists. It is based on Directive 90/423/EEC. Council Decision No 90/424/EEC of 26 June 1990 lays down the conditions and procedures for such compensation in Article 3(2) and (3) and in Chapter 2 - Articles 11-15 - Foot-and-mouth disease. Apart from the immediate application of the required measures (laid down in Article 3(2) and in Directive 85/511/EEC), the Community's financial contribution is subject to the carrying out in practice of the planned measures and the provision by the national authorities of all the information needed within the time limits laid down. Within this framework, the European Union reimburses Member States 60% of the expenditure they have incurred in connection with compensating the owners of slaughtered animals, the destruction of livestock and the disinfecting of contaminated installations and equipment, in accordance with Article 11(4) of the aforementioned decision.
This system has its limits, however, in particular the fact that it provides compensation only in respect of direct losses sustained by stock farmers. Community compensation covers neither indirect losses sustained by stock farmers connected with measures taken in the context of action to combat the epidemic and resulting for instance from embargoes or restrictions on the movement of livestock, nor losses incurred by other operators in the meat sector or in allied sectors, such as slaughterhouses, the meat processing industry, the milk sector, transport, trade or tourism, which have also been hit by the effects of the epidemic.
Eligible costs pursuant to Article 11(4)
a) compensation for farmers in respect of:
i) slaughter and destruction of animals;
ii) destruction of milk;
iii) cleaning and disinfecting of holdings;
iv) destruction of contaminated feed and, where it cannot be disinfected, contaminated equipment;
v) losses incurred by farmers as a result of restrictions imposed on the marketing of livestock and pasture-fattened animals following the reintroduction of emergency vaccination, in accordance with the penultimate subparagraph of Article 13(3) of Directive 85/511/EEC;
b) where applicable, transport of carcasses to processing plants;
c) any other measures essential for the eradication of the outbreak of the disease.
In order to cope with the expenditure incurred during the epidemic, the European Union nevertheless released, in October 2001, an advance of EUR 400 million in favour of the four worst affected Member States. This payment, provided under the 2001 budget, was made possible by redeploying certain agricultural expenditure (in particular following savings concerning arable crops) for the Emergency Veterinary Fund, which was initially allocated EUR 41 million. The latter's budget was increased to EUR 420 million for 2002, including 200 million for indemnifying Member States for expenditure incurred as a result of the FMD crisis.
At the national level, the first statements of the losses incurred have appeared in parallel. The Centre for Economic and Business Research thus put the losses at EUR 13 billion for the UK alone, taking into account the impact on tourism and sports events. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, put the cost to the Exchequer at nearly EUR 4.3 billion, whilst the tourism industry (as a result of many weeks of quarantine measures) suffered losses amounting to about EUR 5.3 billion.
According to the most recent information received by the Commission (situation as of July 2002), commitment appropriations for compensation from the EU budget in 2001 stood at EUR 421 141 381 (EUR 2 700 000 for Ireland, EUR 3 300 000 for France, EUR 39 000 000 for the Netherlands and EUR 376 141 381 for the United Kingdom). Related payments amounting to EUR 400 million were made in 2002 (EUR 2 700 000 for Ireland, EUR 3 300 000 for France, EUR 39 000 000 for the Netherlands and EUR 355 000 000 for the United Kingdom), figures which include the advances decided on in August 2001.
The final total of Community compensation to the Member States is likely to be higher, and calculation will only be possible after all the veterinary inspections and financial checks have been carried out in the Member States concerned. That exercise is likely to take time, given the criticism made of some national compensation systems , the illegal movements of livestock that have been detected, and even the rumours of deliberate infection of some livestock that have been circulating, as well as the different compensation procedures introduced in the various countries as the epidemic has progressed.
On 15 February 2002, compensation for slaughter in the UK amounted to more than one billion euros, representing compensation in full for the market value of certain animals that had been killed or flat-rate compensation variable according to the species concerned. Counting from July 2001, after the government withdrew this option, independent assessment by an independent expert appointed by the national authorities was introduced. In France, a system of direct assistance was established to compensate for the damage caused by an outbreak of FMD and by measures adopted to control the disease.
National assistance plans comprising various measures to help stock farmers cope with problems stemming from the FMD crisis were also drawn up and, where necessary, examined by the Commission.
A particular problem arose in connection with compensation in the Netherlands. Farmers there finance compensation themselves through contributions to a national system, to the extent that compensation is not covered by payments from the Community. However, the system provides for significant reductions where regulations such as biosecurity rules on farms have not been complied with. In some cases, this clearly led to massive cuts in compensation payments. This poses the question of whether it would not be more appropriate to impose fines, calculated in a uniform manner on the basis of the severity of the offence, as an alternative to percentage reductions in compensation. In addition, competition is distorted if farmers in one Member State have to contribute to compensation payments whilst this is not the case in other Member States.
Moreover, compensation for losses arising from FMD should as a general rule cover less than 100% of the losses, in order to increase the incentive to comply with the necessary biosecurity rules on farms. Not more than 80% of losses eligible for compensation should be reimbursed from public funds.
In view of the risks arising from animal diseases, Member States should introduce publicly supported compulsory insurance systems for the livestock farming sector which not only cover direct losses but also pay compensation for consequential damage such as losses due to movement bans and entail appropriate contributions from the insured in order to provide an incentive for good farming practice.
The compensation system must also not be designed in such a way that it might run counter to the strategy for controlling the spread of the disease. Constructive cooperation in combating epidemics on the part of the people affected, particularly farmers, must not be undermined by the fact that those concerned can expect to benefit financially if a different strategy is chosen.
The issue of vaccination against FMD
The question of vaccination rests first and foremost on the definition of the objective of disease control. In the case of the United Kingdom, the Chief Scientific Adviser described the goal of FMD control to the committee as being to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible while culling the minimum number of animals. The rapporteur takes the view that this position concentrates too much on the disease-control aspect of the question. Even though there may be a correlation between the 'duration of the crisis' and the 'number of animals culled', this in no way amounts to a decision on the relationship which should exist between these two components; such a decision can ultimately be taken only by weighing up the political considerations, rather than on the basis of 'objective' facts.
The goal of disease control must be more broadly defined and generally acceptable, and should therefore consist of minimising the expected economic and non-economic damage to those affected by the crisis – including the public purse – and ensuring that losses are not unfairly passed on to those concerned. Of course, the means of achieving the objective do not automatically follow from this definition either. Conflicts between varying interests and differences in the assessment of those interests will continue to arise. Nevertheless, this definition of the objective removes the issue of FMD control from the technical disease-control level and places it on the political and social level where it belongs, on account of its relevance for the entire population in the affected areas and regions. It is in this context that the issue should be considered of whether and how vaccination should be used to prevent or control an FMD outbreak.
Prophylactic vaccination is used as part of an animal health prophylactic programme on all or some of the susceptible species. To be effective, it must be done at least twice a year to secure proper immunity in a given population, cover at least 75 to 80% of the population and be carried out with a vaccine that is effective against the strain of the virus likely to infect the animals. A return to systematic prophylactic vaccination against FMD is not yet at this stage an option to aspire to, particularly because there are seven different serotypes, which cannot be tackled by a single vaccination, and 80 known subtypes exist within them, which likewise cannot be fully covered by a vaccination. Only by chance, therefore, could the right vaccine be chosen. Quite apart from the expense involved, there would be little point in prophylactic vaccination today, given the globalisation of trade and risk of a wide range of strains being introduced. Consequently, none of the experts heard by the committee came out in favour of reintroducing prophylactic vaccinations against FMD at the present time.
Moreover, the impact on trade would still at this stage be very serious, not only because under OIE rules vaccinated animals cannot be exported to countries which have the status of ‘FMD-free countries where vaccination is not practised’ but also because exports of other animal products derived from vaccinated animals to countries which are FMD-free and do not practise vaccination would in practice be substantially hampered. Nevertheless, this policy should not be completely ruled out, since certain circumstances such as repeated epidemics or significant progress in the field of vaccines might make it advisable to reconsider its usefulness.
Emergency vaccination is reserved for control of the disease. It is designed to restrict the spread of FMD by reducing the speed of its propagation. It also gives more time to slaughter infected animals on farms.
It might be recalled that the use or non-use of vaccination in the event of outbreaks and the choice of whether to cull or preserve the vaccinated animals have repercussions on international health status as defined by the OIE and on the extent of the requirements for regaining higher status. Under the OIE International Animal Health Code, vaccination results in a downgrading of the health status of an FMD free country. Such a downgrading affects that country's trade with other FMD free countries, as the latter impose import restrictions on live animals of susceptible species or products thereof for the minimum periods specified in the Code.
A key aspect of the use of emergency vaccination that plays a central part throughout the debate and is also reflected in the OIE recommendations and the varying OIE status of individual countries is the possibility of distinguishing between vaccinated and infected animals and the problem of carrier animals. Modern vaccines are now so pure that they no longer contain any non-structural proteins.
On the question of FMD infection from vaccinated animals and emergency vaccines, Dr de Clercq gave the following explanation in his contribution for the committee:
'Conventional vaccines against FMD are based on chemically inactivated viruses (Barteling and Vreeswijk, 1991). Formalin was the first inactivant used for their production; however, its association with the emergence of viral escapes (Beck and Strohmaier, 1987) led to the use of binary ethyleneimine as an inactivant. Before inactivation it is important that virus cultures are well purified. This is also essential to be able to differentiate vaccinated from infected animals. The effective formulation of FMD inactivated vaccines requires adjuvants such as Al(OH)3/saponine (for ruminants) or incomplete oil-based formulations (for pigs and cattle) (Doel, 1999). Vaccine formulations frequently include viruses of different serotypes, and vaccine preparation implies the growth of high quantities of virus in tissue culture; therefore, high-containment facilities are required…
…Vaccination does not prevent infection of protected ruminants with FMDV (Salt, 1993). The establishment of the carrier state is independent of the immune status of the animal at the time of exposure to infection, i.e., pre-existing immunity to FMD, in the form of circulating antibody, does not prevent animals becoming carriers. Transmission of clinical disease from carrier to susceptible cattle has never been demonstrated under experimental conditions. However, there is growing circumstantial evidence from Africa that transmission can occur from carrier cattle and buffalo to susceptible cattle with which they have close contact (Thomson, 1997)…
…Many countries hold a strategic reserve of FMD vaccines in the event of an outbreak. Reserves, or banks, consist of either ready formulated vaccines or the storage of concentrated antigens over liquid nitrogen, which can be rapidly formulated onto vaccine. Unlike conventional vaccines, emergency vaccines are often of higher potency (more than 6 protective dose 50 (PD50)) to ensure both rapid protective immunity (4 days) (Salt et al., 1998; Cox et al., 1999) and greater cross-specificity…
If antibodies against FMDV are found in imported animals, it is crucial to differentiate without delay between antibodies from a vaccination and from infection. Laboratory tests capable of discriminating both kinds of antibodies could also be used to identify infected animals in regions where emergency vaccination was applied as vaccinated animals can be infected without presenting clinical signs. Measuring antibodies against the non-structural proteins (NSPs) of FMD virus by a NSP-ELISA (Lubroth and Brown, 1995; De Diego et al., 1997) indicates a previous infection. NSPs are produced only during the multiplication cycle of the virus. NSPs are also produced in in vitro FMD virus cultures used for vaccine production. These virus cultures are highly purified before their use in modern vaccine formulation so that almost all NSPs are eliminated. Thanks to this high degree of purification no antibodies against NSPs will be formed after vaccination and differentiation with infected animals will be possible. A marker system is introduced in this way although real marker vaccines are still not available. In future the use of peptide vaccines could be useful in this respect (Wang et al., 2001). The discriminating test will be of great value during sero-surveillance after an emergency vaccination for declaring ‘free of FMD infection’. As this test is FMD type independent it is also very useful for sero-surveillance in regions at high risk of FMD introduction. An already well-validated test in cattle is the 3-ABC ELISA (Brocchi et al., 1998; Bergmann et al., 2000). In Taiwan a peptide based NSP-ELISA was used to differentiate convalescent from vaccinated pigs (Shen et al., 1999).
However, an NSP-ELISA is not capable of detecting antibodies in all carrier animals (false negatives) and should therefore not be used on an individual basis but on a herd basis.
A positive reaction in the NSP-ELISA can be confirmed by testing a new serum sample of the same animal in the same test (Berlinzani et al., 2001) or by testing the same serum against a panel of NSPs such as 2C, 3A, 3B, 3ABC and 3D in the enzyme-linked immunoelectrotransfer blot assay (EITB) (Bergmann et al., 2000) or in a profiling ELISA with Lb, 2C, 3A and 3D (MacKay et al., 1998).
A major gap in the NSP-tests is the lack of international recognised reference sera. This gap also exists for the majority of FMD serotypes and important subtypes in tests detecting antibodies against the SPs. EU DG-Sanco in collaboration with FAO-EUFMD, OIE and EDQM is developing a network of laboratories to produce and validate the necessary standard reagents…'
In the light of the experience in 2001, the question of whether and to what extent livestock ought to be vaccinated in the event of an FMD outbreak cannot be definitely resolved in advance for all eventualities. Experts attending the hearings held by the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on FMD were not agreed amongst themselves as to the appropriateness of vaccinations to stem an outbreak or eradicate the disease, from the point of view, inter alia, of veterinary medicine or in the light of epidemiological considerations. However, many of the experts stressed that, under certain conditions, emergency vaccination is a better way of controlling FMD than the ‘stamping out’ method. The issue of vaccination needs to be resolved in the context of the particular situation. It must also be seen in the light of the seriousness of the risk of future FMD outbreaks due to the particular control method adopted.
The criteria for emergency vaccination in the event of an outbreak of FMD should be defined as part of an overview, weighing up the various interests in play. Consequently, the economic, psychological and social impact of the decision in the areas concerned must not be ignored as it has been in the past.
Measures to tackle FMD should not only – as on previous occasions – be regarded as an operation to police the epidemic with the aim of safeguarding livestock holdings or particular commercial interests but should also have regard for changes in people’s way of life and in attitudes towards the environment and animal welfare and increased mobility, combined with a cost-benefit analysis of any given control strategy. The disease-control objective (also motivated by trade considerations) of eradicating the disease as quickly as possible while culling the minimum number of animals should therefore not entail an absolute non-vaccination policy, and must always be offset against other politically relevant objectives such as avoiding excessive economic losses in upstream and downstream sectors of food production and in other sectors of the economy and avoiding traumatic psychological and social consequences in the regions concerned.
Decisions must be taken in a transparent manner: otherwise it will be difficult to persuade those sections of the population who suffer most from a non-vaccination policy to provide the necessary cooperation during a future FMD outbreak. Moreover, mass culling of livestock and the subsequent destruction of meat can be ethically justified only by special socio-economic grounds.
Experts take the view that the vaccines currently available make it possible – at least on a herd by herd basis – to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals. This means that, in principle, one of the main obstacles to the use of emergency vaccination has been removed, since the necessary testing procedures to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals are also available. The international recognition of serological tests to demonstrate the presence of antibodies to 3ABC or other non-structural proteins for the purposes of regaining ‘FMD-free’ status more rapidly after emergency vaccination is a vital element in decision-making on vaccination in the event of an outbreak of FMD, since otherwise the threat of trade restrictions being imposed by key third countries remains. Progress must be made here.
It is true that the problem of transmission of FMD by carrier animals (animals in which the virus can under certain circumstances still be detected more than 28 days after infection but which may possibly not be producing any antibodies to non-structural proteins or displaying clinical symptoms) still remains in principle and is not quantifiable so far. However, many experts consider the risk of transmission of FMD by carrier animals to be extremely slight.
Even though the question of whether emergency vaccination should be used cannot be answered on a general basis from the outset, there are certainly some circumstances in which emergency vaccination appears indispensable. These include risks to public health and serious environmental repercussions. Emergency vaccinations ought therefore always to be carried out in those cases in which they make it possible to avoid mass burial or burning on pyres, which are dangerous to the environment and health.
Regionalisation of a country is a key element in the use of emergency vaccination. This makes it possible to exclude areas in which vaccination is not practised from the negative consequences for trade. The division of a country into FMD-free and FMD-infected zones ought in future to play an essential part in the event of a major outbreak, inter alia in deciding the control strategy.
As mentioned above, the adverse impact of vaccination on exports of live animals and animal products has been considerably reduced following the change in the OIE’s Animal Health Code in May 2002 (reduction of the period before ‘FMD-free’ status can be regained to 6 months in the event of emergency vaccination without subsequent culling).
In future, therefore, emergency vaccination with the aim of allowing animals to live for normal further use should no longer be regarded only as a last resort for controlling FMD but must be considered as a first-choice option from the outset when an outbreak occurs, except in the case of the actual farms which unequivocally have to be regarded as infected. A transparent list of criteria should be applied in order to assess the likely consequences of each control strategy. Staff and equipment for the effective implementation of a vaccination strategy should be made available quickly throughout the EU.
The rapporteur is well aware in this connection that problems remain in relation to emergency vaccination owing to the lack of international validation of the new testing procedures and the lack of reference sera. These problems must clearly be taken into account when considering the disease-control strategy in terms of trade policy. As a general rule, priority should nevertheless be given to vaccination in the event of a major outbreak in an area with high livestock density, where significant economic and non-economic damage is to be expected from a stamping-out policy.
Other animal diseases
In addition to FMD, livestock in the EU are threatened by other animal diseases, some of which are also dangerous to humans, such as TSE and avian influenza. From the economic point of view the diseases which currently present the greatest risk are FMD, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, Newcastle disease and avian influenza, all of which are either endemic or occur sporadically in EU Member States.
Classical swine fever:
Classical swine fever can cause major outbreaks on a scale comparable to FMD. During the most recent swine fever crisis in the Netherlands in 1997, for example, around 11 million pigs had to be slaughtered. This disease is caused by a virus partially resistant to moderate heat (560C), that is inactivated by pH<3.0 or pH>11.0. It survives well in cold conditions and can survive some forms of meat processing (curing and smoking). Death is usual within a week of the onset of signs and the mortality rate can approach 90%. Pigs and wild boar are the only natural reservoir of classical swine fever virus. Transmission is by direct contact with infected pigs, the ingestion of products from infected pigs or pig meat products and contact with infected material, which may have been physically transported by birds, flies or humans. Long-distance aerosol transport is not considered a factor. The incubation period is 2-14 days. The disease occurs in much of Asia, Central and South America, and parts of Europe and Africa. There is a safe and effective vaccine which makes it possible to build up long-term protection quickly. A similar problem to that posed by FMD also arises here, however: that of distinguishing vaccinated from infected animals. As a result, only emergency vaccination is permitted in the EU, but this was not used during the most recent outbreaks.
Swine vesicular disease
This disease is caused by a virus that is preserved by refrigeration and freezing and inactivated by heating to at 560C for 1 hour. It is stable over a wide range of pH. It resists fermentation and smoking. This disease has a low morbidity rate in herds but high in groups of pigs. Its hosts are pigs and laboratory personnel may seroconvert. Transmission is via lesions in skin and mucosa and by contact with excretions from infected pigs. Also with meat scraps and swill derived from infected pigs. The incubation period is 2-7 days. The disease has been recorded in Hong Kong, Japan and several European countries. The clinical signs of SVD may easily be confused with those of foot and mouth disease. There is no vaccine against SVD and disease-control takes the form of culling.
This disease is caused by a virus inactivated by 560C/3 hours, 600C/30 min and by acid pH. The virus can survive in the dead host and excretions for some weeks and faeces can remain infective for over a month at 370C. Its hosts are many species of birds, both domestic and wild. This virus is a human pathogen but does not cause severe or long-lasting symptoms. The mortality and morbidity rate of this disease varies among species, and with the strain of virus. Chicken are the most susceptible poultry, ducks and geese are the least susceptible ones. The way of transmission is by direct contact with secretions, especially faeces, from infected birds and by contaminated feed, water, implements, premises, human clothing, etc. Migratory wild birds might be responsible for the primary introduction of infection. The incubation period is 4-6 days. Newcastle disease is endemic in many countries of the world. Some European countries have been free of the disease for years.
There are no standard regulations governing control measures in the EU. A large majority of the countries rearing poultry commercially rely on vaccination to keep ND in check, whilst in Norway, Sweden and Finland vaccination is prohibited and control is by 'stamping-out'. Prophylactic vaccination is voluntary in the United Kingdom. In contrast in the Netherlands and some other EU countries vaccination is compulsory. Outbreaks of disease or infections with virulent virus are, however, dealt with by slaughter and disposal of all birds on infected premises and by movement restrictions in the area.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza
This disease is created by a virus inactivated by 560C/3 hours; 600C/30 min and by acid pH. It remains viable for long periods in tissues, faeces and also in water. It is highly contagious, capable of causing very high mortality (up to 100%). Highly pathogenic avian influenza isolates have been obtained primarily from chickens and turkeys. It is reasonable to assume that all avian species are susceptible to infection. Transmission is by direct contact with secretions from infected birds, especially faeces, by contaminated feed, water, equipment and clothing. Clinically normal waterfowl and sea birds may introduce the virus into flocks. Also broken contaminated eggs may infect chicks in the incubator. The incubation period is 3-5 days.
Present control consists of the slaughter of all birds on the farm, the disposal of carcasses and all animal products, cleansing and disinfection and a wait of a further 21 days before restocking.
Possibly as a result of global warming, such diseases as bluetongue, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, have also recently appeared in temperate latitudes.
This disease is caused by a virus that is inactivated by 500C/3 hours; 600C/15 min. It is sensitive to pH<6.0 and >8.0. It is very stable in the presence of protein (e.g. has survived for years in blood stored at 200C). It causes a mortality rate normally low in sheep. Its hosts are sheep and cattle. Goats, dromedaries and wild ruminants suffer a generally inapparent infection. Transmission is by biological vectors: Culicoides spp. The incubation period is 5-20 days. The virus is present in a broad band of countries extending approximately 400N and 350S. The bluetongue virus has been shown by serology to be present in regions where the Culicoides vector is present (e.g. Africa, the Americas, Australia and some countries of southern Asia and Oceania). However, clinical disease with confirmation by virus isolation has been observed in a few countries only.
In September 2001 the European Commission adopted a decision to ban the imports of live animals and their semen, embryos and ova of the bluetongue susceptible species originating from or transiting through Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Similar restrictions are also in place in the areas of the European Union where this disease occurs (Greece, the Balearics, Corsica and some areas in Italy).
At present there are no vaccines in the EU.
Policy on vaccination against animal diseases which can cause serious economic damage and of whose introduction there is a high risk is only partially standardised in the EU. The vaccines available – where they exist at all – sometimes only afford limited protection or, for economic reasons, may only be used in emergency vaccination campaigns (as is the case with classical swine fever).
In view of the intensification of world trade and global warming, a thorough analysis of the existing and likely future threats arising from the introduction of animal diseases into the EU which could cause major economic damage is urgently needed at European level.
Recommendations to the Member States and the Commission
To sum up, and insofar as they are not already contained in previous sections, the rapporteur would make the following recommendations:
Given that it is extremely contagious, FMD will continue to spread to disease-free areas again and again until it is practically eradicated. As a result, lasting success can be achieved in efforts to control FMD worldwide only if it proves possible, through close international cooperation, to reduce the disease decisively in areas where it is still endemic. The Commission should therefore do more to assist the countries concerned in their efforts to control or eradicate FMD and seek to improve cooperation with regard to information (early warning systems).
The accession of 10 new Member States will shortly bring with it changes in the scenario for the possible introduction of animal diseases into the EU. In the accession negotiations, the Commission should ensure that, at the time of accession, the applicant countries’ border control posts at the future external borders of the EU are of the same standard as those of the present Member States. Member States, coordinated by the Commission, should develop cooperation with the applicant countries in the field of prevention and control of livestock diseases.
A key element in the implementation of a vaccination strategy is evidently the short-term availability of sufficient quantities of vaccines. This is difficult to achieve without outside help, particularly for the EU's poorer neighbours. Member States and the Community should therefore continue to keep sufficient stocks of vaccines/antigen material to be able to supply them quickly to countries bordering on the EU without difficulty if that becomes necessary.
As outlined above, the periods required for regaining 'FMD-free without vaccination' status following emergency vaccination and stamping out still vary. Up to now, it has also been impossible in the short term for a country affected by an FMD outbreak to employ regionalisation to shield certain areas from trade restrictions by having them recognised by the OIE as FMD-free areas. As members of the OIE, Member States should, in cooperation with the Commission, seek to ensure that OIE rules constantly keep pace with scientific progress in the development of vaccines and test procedures and that OIE procedures permit rapid decision-making.
The Commission and Member States are called upon actively to strive to bring the waiting period for regaining FMD-free status after application of a strategy of vaccination without subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals into line with the period used when a vaccination-to-kill policy is applied, in other words three months in both cases. It is acknowledged that this will require further improvements as regards vaccines and testing methods to identify infected animals in a herd.
Given that the EU is an internal market and is seen by third countries as a single area, Member States are also affected by trade difficulties where an FMD outbreak occurs in another Member State. As a major FMD outbreak within the EU internal market can very quickly assume international proportions, the interests of countries bordering on a Member State where FMD has broken out and those of the Community as a whole must be taken into account. The Community should be in a position if necessary to determine the strategy for controlling FMD itself if this is required in order to protect vital interests of Member States threatened by FMD or of the Community. Member States should approve Commission proposals to this end.
The intensification of trade in animal products in the context of globalisation, the expansion in tourism and global warming have created a new scenario as regards the threat posed by animal diseases. On the basis of an analysis of the existing and likely future threats arising from the introduction of animal diseases into the EU which could cause major economic damage, the Commission should therefore draw up an overall strategy for preventing and controlling livestock diseases in the EU.
FMD prevention and control
Precautionary monitoring is a crucial element in a preventive approach to disease control. It might be recalled that the FMD outbreak on the pig farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall had not been reported and the animals were evidently being kept in atrocious conditions. Member States should therefore gear their animal disease monitoring systems to ensuring that outbreaks are detected at an early stage. Member States should also consider on the basis of risk analyses to what extent restrictions on the transport of livestock should be introduced even at times when no outbreak of disease has occurred, especially if there is a particular risk that a disease may break out, for example when it has already done so in another Member State.
Contingency plans are a further key element in controlling FMD and other animal diseases. As the 2001 crisis showed, the efficiency of FMD control depends to a decisive extent on the contingency plans. Member States should review their contingency plans in the light of experience of the FMD crisis in 2001 – particularly with reference to the staff available for deployment, equipment and laboratory capacity – and should test them regularly.
The risk scenarios predicted before 2001 clearly proved to be over-optimistic. Contingency plans should be based on risk analysis and provide for various scenarios so that even major outbreaks can be kept under control.
The criteria for emergency vaccination are of vital importance. It is certainly not easy to define measurable criteria in relation to the social and psychological impact of the control strategy alongside the disease-control criteria. However, it is perfectly possible to list a catalogue of circumstances in which the stamping-out method should not be used, for example where, in the event of a major outbreak in an area with high livestock density, a lack of infrastructure for carcass disposal might mean that pyres or mass burial sites would have to be used, posing a threat to the environment. In addition, cost-benefit analyses must clearly show the predicted economic impact on the areas affected. The criteria for emergency vaccination should be defined as precisely as possible without unduly restricting the discretion which the authorities must enjoy when controlling epidemics. The plans should involve not only agriculture but also the food trade and other relevant sectors of the economy, local authorities and consumers’ organisations. Contingency plans should be so designed that emergency vaccinations can be carried out as a control measure of first choice from the beginning of an outbreak. Member States should keep the principles underlying their contingency plans accessible by Internet at all times. Member States should coordinate their contingency plans, particularly with reference to regions near borders.
Previous practice as regards the monitoring of national contingency plans by the FVO must be changed. The Commission should examine the contingency plan of each Member State at least once every three years on the spot, so that any shortcomings can be detected and remedied in good time.
Member States, in cooperation with the Commission, should establish compatible, networked electronic animal epidemic information systems containing and linking all information which is of relevance for the purposes of effective management of livestock epidemics, into which relevant information from the operatives on the ground (especially vets) can be input in real time in the event of an outbreak.
The experience of FMD control in Scotland highlighted the importance of coordination and cooperation among operational units and authorities on the spot. Member States should therefore provide an integrated crisis management system and short lines of communication to the bodies involved and, in case of doubt and provided that this does not jeopardise the implementation of national strategies, assign decision-making powers to local or regional level. When drafting contingency plans, provision should be made upstream for adjusting the measures to be taken in the light of the risks which arise, and it should be decided what channels will be used to inform the public. The establishment of continuous contact, upstream and downstream, between all the organisations concerned (public authorities, farmers, members of the public) should play a leading part in the drafting of contingency plans and should receive particular attention in the Commission’s evaluations thereof.
The decline in the number of veterinarians in both state veterinary services and the agricultural sector is a cause for concern in terms of acceptable monitoring practices. Member States are therefore called upon to immediately halt and reverse the trend towards cutting the number of staff in public veterinary services and to permanently provide sufficient veterinary staff to prevent and control livestock diseases so that even major epidemics do not get out of control.
Despite the devastating 2001 epidemic, FMD control is not something with which authorities and veterinarians are familiar, since for several decades the disease had hardly ever occurred in the EU. Very few vets had ever seen a case of FMD before. This makes training all the more important. Member States should therefore regularly carry out training measures and crisis exercises to control epidemics, involving farmers and vets, including internationally in cooperation with neighbouring Member States.
Vaccinations failed in the United Kingdom in 2001 (partly) because food retail chains feared that consumers would not accept products from vaccinated animals. Member States should therefore increase the provision of information to the public concerning livestock diseases and their impact on human health.
A major problem in disease control in 2001 was the lack of traceability of sheep. The Commission should as quickly as possible submit a proposal for amending Directive 92/102/EC so as to improve the individual marking of pigs, sheep and goats.
Biosecurity on farms is likewise a crucial element of preventive disease control. This includes hygiene and monitoring on the part of farmers themselves. Member States should issue guidelines comprising elementary precautions to prevent animal diseases which must be complied with on farms where livestock are kept. Where breaches are repeatedly found to have occurred, it should be possible to ban those responsible from livestock farming.
Member States should strictly apply the EU harmonised system for imports of ungulates and ensure that imports come only from third countries listed as safe and only if accompanied by the required animal health certificates. Products of animal origin should come only from approved producers and imports should only be possible via special, properly equipped veterinary border control posts. Inadequately equipped posts must be closed if necessary. In the event of breaches of import regulations in the food trade, Member States should impose deterrent penalties, which should be as identical as possible.
Member States’ inspection measures at the external borders of the EU to prevent imports of susceptible animals and of products derived from them from countries at risk of FMD and when there are FMD outbreaks in neighbouring countries should be uniform.
In addition to permanent monitoring of border control posts, the Commission should without delay take measures to improve the existing system for monitoring the transport of live animals within the EU (Animo system). In addition, the system for the monitoring of imports into the EU (Shift system) should be operational in the near future.
The Community should as soon as possible revoke the authorisation pursuant to Directive 72/462/EEC for travellers to import small quantities of meat intended for their personal consumption as part of their personal baggage. The Commission took corresponding action in September 2002. Failure to comply with the ban on this should be punished by means of fines sufficiently substantial to be effective.
Research and development
First of all, it should be pointed out that industry can be expected to play a significant part in the development of vaccines only if there is some prospect of a political willingness in principle to consider returning to routine prophylactic vaccination as a priority measure in place of stamping out (a precondition for which is clearly the quality of vaccines and tests).
The Commission should immediately designate a Community reference laboratory for vesicular virus diseases, which should maintain contact with the officially designated national laboratories, assist them and be in a position to make optimal methods of diagnosis of vesicular virus diseases of animals available, perform experiments and field trials relevant to FMD and provide information and further-training programmes.
The Commission and Member States should provide more funding and coordination for research into livestock diseases which figure in the OIE’s A list and occur or are likely to occur in the EU, with the aim of facilitating systematic vaccination. In the case of FMD, the priorities should be as follows:
• to improve vaccines with the aim of developing a vaccine which needs to be administered only once and which covers as many serotypes and subtypes as possible, builds up protection very quickly and blocks transmission of the virus in order to exclude carrier status,
• to improve tests with the aim of reliably distinguishing between vaccinated animals and animals which are both vaccinated and infected and detecting FMD earlier than hitherto after an infection,
• mathematical models which will improve prediction of the impact of the various control strategies, including vaccination.
Compensation and EU-Member State relations
As the FVO reports show, the Member States have fallen behind in the transposition of EU directives in a series of cases. Where failure to act on the part of some Member States leads to higher costs than necessary, it would be unfair if the remaining Member States had to pay the price. The Commission should submit a proposal to amend Decision 424/90/EC so as, in general, to permit the Community to contribute to compensation payments for losses arising from FMD control measures only if the Member State concerned has transposed all relevant directives on FMD before the outbreak and the Member State’s preparations for a possible FMD outbreak (contingency plan, staffing, equipment and infrastructure) were adequate. Compensation should also be conditional on the recipient’s making an appropriate contribution by means of premiums for relevant insurance or in some other way.
The experience of 2001 probably means that earlier cost-benefit analyses of routine prophylactic vaccination are now obsolete. The Commission, on the basis of the experience of 2001, should therefore draw up a cost-benefit analysis of prophylactic vaccination, which was successfully employed by a number of Member States before 1992. This study should include an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages in the field of international trade, public opinion and marketing possibilities within the EU. In addition, the Commission should commission a study (cost-benefit analysis) of strategies for controlling FMD outbreaks (emergency vaccinations/stamping out), taking account of both the economic and non-economic impact in the areas concerned and at national and EU level.
Member States should ensure by means of legislation and organisational measures that in the event of vaccination, products derived from animals vaccinated against FMD can be marketed at least regionally, but if possible throughout the EU, provided that there are no objections to this on grounds of disease control. Major food businesses should be involved in the planning.
Member States are called upon to transpose properly Directive 91/628/EEC (as amended by Directive 95/29/EC) on the protection of animals during transport.
In the interests of curbing the spread of animal diseases as well as on animal welfare grounds, the Commission should submit a legislative proposal to set a limit of 8 hours or 500 km on journeys by cattle, horses, goats, sheep and pigs not intended for specific breeding and/or sporting purposes.
Finally, the Commission should submit to Parliament and the Council an evaluation report as to whether the FVO, which the European Council decided in 1993 should be based in Ireland, has the right staff and infrastructure to enable it to carry out its duties effectively in the long term, and whether, in the context of enlargement, some advantages might be offered by moving the office to Brussels, particularly in the light of the rapid staff turnover.
Summary record of the visit by a delegation from the committee to the United Kingdom from 17 to 20 April 2002
The delegation from the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Foot-and-Mouth Disease made its first visit to the United Kingdom from 17 to 20 April 2002, visiting Scotland, Northumberland and Cumbria. Major items on the programme included visits to two farms affected by the crisis in Carlisle and Hallington, four meetings, one of them public, (on the 17th in Hexham, the 18th in Gretna, the 19th in Carlisle and the 20th in Kendal), visits to the markets in Longtown and Hexham, a visit to the mass burial site at Great Orton Airfield, and the dinner-debates organised by the Cumbria and Northumberland local authorities, all of which provided opportunities to hear eye-witness accounts and opinions from farmers and other professionals directly or indirectly affected by the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, as well invited national and local experts and other interested parties.
From these events the delegation learned of:
- the particular circumstances surrounding the outbreak,
- the extent of its impact and effects on the affected communities,
- the decisions and organisational problems faced by local and national players and the farming and rural community as a whole in implementing the disease eradication policy,
- and the lessons to be learned.
They also made clear the complexity of the debate on strategies to combat foot-and-mouth disease, made manifest in widely differing attitudes and reactions on key points relating to the management of the crisis.
1. Specifics of the foot-and-mouth outbreak
The epidemic that struck the United Kingdom in February 2001 was remarkable for its extent and the high level of contagion associated with it. Its coverage of large geographical areas and the difficulty of knowing how it had spread complicated the task of eradicating it, leading to a crisis lasting more than 10 months, during which local economies were permanently disrupted and communities painfully affected. According to Mr Russell Brown, Member of Parliament for Dumfries, the crisis could certainly have been handled better. Nevertheless, it was not comparable to that of 1967, so that the experience gained during the previous crisis was not of much help in dealing with the recent one. It was therefore inaccurate, according to Mrs Joyce Quin, Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for Agriculture at the time of the appearance of the disease, to say that the lessons of the 1967 crisis had not been taken to heart.
2. The impact and effects of the crisis on the affected communities
The effects of the crisis were severe for the local communities as a whole, which were emotionally and financially devastated:
- farmers suffered from the destruction of their flocks;
- farmers were penalised by the ban on moving animals, sometimes prevented from feeding them or deprived of income from their sale or from farm tourism;
- managers and employers of animal markets were forced to close for months on end;
- the tourism and leisure industries were hard hit by loss of clients;
- small businesses and industries suffered the knock-on effects.
The situation of some of them was aggravated by the fact that no compensation was provided for losses suffered as a result of the crisis. Farmers and other professionals, particularly representatives of the leisure industry, gave moving testimony to this: farms were laid waste and the situation of the tourism industry catastrophic, in regions where employment was highly dependent on these activities. As well as tourism and agriculture, the whole local economy had suffered from the crisis because of a general decline in business, employment and investment.
Statistics were mentioned which gave an idea of the financial impact of the epidemic – a loss of 230 million pounds in the case of tourism in Cumbria alone, for example. However, the real figures will be difficult to establish because of the unquantifiable effects of the epidemic and the many forms its impact takes (loss of income, abandonment of businesses, lost jobs, destruction of pedigree animals and environmental pollution) and the many years that may be needed to reverse them.
The economic cost of the crisis was high, but so was its psychological impact. This was the message that a number of speakers wanted to put across, talking about the feelings of anger, frustration and abandonment experienced by the rural community as a whole, as well as the divisions the crisis had created within it. Some mentioned the insidious confrontation between farmers and other professionals and also among farmers themselves, fuelled by compensation rules which did not reflect the real damage suffered by the various sectors of the economy. According to these speakers, young people’s lack of interest in farming and rural life in general had been deepened by the crisis and their confidence in national and local politicians eroded.
3. Problems caused by eradication policies
3.1. At the decision-making stage
The decision-making process has been widely criticised. Its over-centralisation was stressed, and the fact that local competences were overlooked.
During the visit to his farm, Dobcross Hall (Gaitsgill, Dalston), Mr Peter Holliday gave examples, criticising the absence of local decision-making powers even for immediate decisions such as those relating to slaughter of animals, for which a licence from the Ministry of Agriculture was required. In the view of Mr J.M. Elliott, Director of Safety Services for the county of Cumbria, this over-centralisation also led to reduced efficiency in managing licences for movement of animals.
The failure to recognise local knowledge and competence was also frequently criticised. According to Mr David Black, a local veterinary surgeon, great efforts, and unnecessary evidence, were required before the national authorities could be convinced that the disease was present on a given farm. Sometimes a second visit was required before the central government departments, which did not understand local needs and were obsessed with valuation issues, would give permission for slaughter to go ahead. The same state of affairs was reported on the farm of Mrs Cath Aynsley, Whiteside Law. Farmers criticised the lack of direction and action on the part of the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary services in confirming cases of foot-and-mouth disease, despite the classic symptoms described by local vets. According to Mrs Sue Wrennal, a tenant farmer in Cumbria, these decisions should have been made at local level by people better able to identify the risks. According to Mrs Ann Holmes, a member of Cumbria county council, suggestions made by members of the community were sometimes listened to but too rarely acted upon.
Other people the delegation spoke to – representatives of local authorities in Cumbria and Northumberland, and farmers – mentioned the inconsistency of some decisions, the indecisiveness of the national authorities and their over-susceptibility to the influence of intellectuals, which set national and local solutions against each other rather than allowing common approaches to be reached, while at the same time weakening the chain of command.
Others also criticised the government for paying too little attention to the human aspects of the crisis and not being present at its start. Mr T. Armstrong, chairman of Longtown market, saw the failure of any government representatives to visit during the first seven weeks after outbreaks occurred as typical of the government’s approach to the crisis. He also took the view that if the decision to stop movements of animals had been taken earlier, the market would not have been held on Thursday, 22 February and as a result would not have become infected.
3.2. At the communication and information stage
Mrs Sue Bolam, manager of Belsay Estate and Northumberland county councillor, as well as criticising this absence of the government from the scene of the crisis, also deplored the slowness of procedures, the vagueness surrounding the measures to be taken and the inadequate indication of action to be taken. Despite repeated requests for information, the government was incapable of providing rapid responses, particularly as to the fate of animals. Not knowing whether, or when, their flocks were to be slaughtered was particularly upsetting for the farmers concerned.
The representatives of the National Farmers Union (NFU) (Mr Richard Ellison, Mr Gordon Meek, Mr Stoker Frater, Mr Robin Spence and Mrs Veronica Waller) criticised the national authorities’ poor knowledge of the local situation, also mentioning the inadequacy of the information available on geographical location of farms and animals, which meant that time was wasted and unnecessary risks of infection taken.
Other opinions were harsher, for example that of Mr Roger of the North Yorkshire Smallholders Association, who thought the government had acted arrogantly, while at the same time being unable to control the situation, to listen as it should have done to scientific views or to justify its decisions, particularly as regards vaccination and slaughter.
In the view of the farmer Mrs Susan Greenhill, however, neither the NFU nor the government had been able to provide farmers who needed it with appropriate information, and not enough attention had been paid to the importance of animals to the region, the environment and the tourism industry, although these were vital to the way of life of the rural community in counties where the land could be put to no other use.
Several farmers mentioned other communication problems, citing the absence of a dedicated phone line to report outbreaks, with the result that the only line available was always engaged, the difficult relations between local vets and the government veterinary services and, above all, the failure to hold a public inquiry, which was perceived as another sign of the government’s lack of openness and poor communication skills.
However, these views about poor communication by the government and the lack of open, comprehensive discussion were firmly refuted by Mrs Joyce Quin. She thought the comments to the effect that the government was insufficiently open were unjustified, given that weekly meetings had been held with representatives of the interested parties to review the situation and report on government action. She also pointed out that during the first months of the crisis people at local level had tried to have their actions endorsed by the central decision-making authorities so that, when the local centres became operational, they would be able to exercise more effective leadership in managing the crisis.
However, according to a number of witnesses, the message regarding the government’s policy on vaccination and the possible use of emergency vaccination proved to be confused:
- the reasons that led the British government not to vaccinate do not seem to have been well understood: some people thought the decision not to carry out emergency vaccination had been taken for purely commercial reasons, such as the fear of losing export outlets on the part of both the government and farmers themselves;
- others considered that the information available was unclear, so that it was difficult to know whether the vaccination programme should end with slaughter of the affected animals and to anticipate the reaction of supermarkets and consumers to the marketing of products from vaccinated animals.
The fact that the attitudes of farmers and their unions differed among themselves contributed to this confusion, as did a failure to understand the import rules applicable to countries that carry out vaccination. As a result there were major contradictions in the statements of those questioned: the Rev. David Emmison of Kirkoswald Methodist Church did not find this surprising, given the fact that no rational discussion could take place during the crisis because of the emotion surrounding the issue of vaccination.
According to the NFU representatives, the union has regarded emergency vaccination as a possible option to stop the spread of the disease. However, uncertainty about what would become of the vaccinated animals had militated against this method of combating the disease, not to mention:
- the practical difficulties that would have had to be overcome to implement vaccination, given the geographical extent of the disease;
- the inadequacy of tests and vaccines, which meant that it was not possible to distinguish between vaccinated animals and sick animals;
- the danger of not being able to sell products from vaccinated animals, which the agri-food industry was unwilling to use, as well as that of losing export markets;
- the fact that use of emergency vaccination might lead to the slaughter of a greater number of animals than an immediate cull;
- the controversy even within the farming community itself, which did not make the decision any easier (uninfected farms wishing to vaccinate in order to protect themselves, while those that had already lost their flocks were more opposed to the idea).
While pointing out that the Commission had authorised emergency vaccination in the United Kingdom as well as in the Netherlands and adopted decisions stipulating the measures necessary to trace meat from vaccinated animals, the Commission representatives said that although emergency vaccination had been envisaged in Cumbria to safeguard dairy herds, the negative perception of the products of vaccinated animals by the food industry had prevented it from being put into practice. In the eyes of some farmers this risk of depreciation of products from affected regions must on no account be underestimated, any more than should that of no longer being able to sell the pedigree animals that would have been vaccinated, or their offspring.
According to Mr David Black, a veterinary surgeon, emergency vaccination would not have solved the problem of the spread of foot-and-mouth, given the advanced stage of the disease. Neither could a return to preventive vaccination be envisaged without reliable, validated tests to distinguish between vaccinated and sick animals and without revised IOE (International Office of Epizootics) standards. Mrs Elaine Murray, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Dumfries, defended a similar position when she said that the emergency vaccination option did not seem appropriate at the time of the crisis and that more research should be carried out before a preventive vaccine could be considered.
Other people, on the other hand, were convinced that a vaccination policy would have been preferable to the large-scale slaughter used to control the disease.
3.3. At the implementation stage
A number of the farmers met by the delegation described the first days of the crisis as a ‘real disaster’. Mr Rex Toft, Leader of Cumbria County Council, also confirmed that the Ministry of Agriculture, which bore the responsibility for responding to the crisis, had been overwhelmed. Most interviewees thought that the situation improved from the time when the army was called in, solving a number of logistical problems, so that many of them wished this had happened earlier.
The main targets of criticism were:
- the excessive bureaucracy and formality of the procedures, which were not appropriate to the seriousness and urgency of the situation, as well as the inordinate anxiety of the government departments to comply with the criteria set by the Commission for the granting of Community compensation (Mr David Black);
- the repeated delays throughout the crisis (in receiving confirmation of cases, slaughter and removal of animals to be destroyed, the intervention of the army, gaining access to the results of the serological tests that were essential for granting of licences to move animals, receiving the relevant licences (because of the shortcomings of the computer program that managed them), setting up a regional disease centre in Northumberland, etc.);
- the lack of an effective intervention plan and of advance preparation (lack of up-to-date local maps, adequately trained veterinary personnel, availability of instruction manuals);
- the undermanning at local level, inter alia in veterinary services, despite the significant reinforcements deployed and the help of veterinarians from third countries;
- the brutal manner in which some decisions were implemented (Mr Martin Rushton, hotelier and founder member of the Cumbria Crisis Alliance), some farmers even speaking of intimidation and pressure being applied when they refused to accept decisions to remove their flocks, and of the threat that they would be denied financial compensation or prosecuted for adding to the risk of propagation of the disease;
- the absence of any strategy to help those who were in the front line of the crisis and who were also suffering from the situation;
- the failure to take sufficient account of aspects related to animal welfare, particularly during slaughter, on farms or at mass burial sites;
- underestimation of air, water and soil pollution risks.
The statements by representatives of DEFRA went some way to contradict these remarks, however, particularly as regards the environment and animal welfare. Mr John Houlihan, for example, confirmed during the visit to the mass burial site at Great Orton Airfield that the veterinary service had supervised the slaughter very closely from the animal welfare point of view. Also, despite the urgent need for speed of burial, the site’s technical supervisor, Mr Laurie Lefeuvre, said that every precaution had been taken to avoid damage to the environment, particularly pollution of subterranean and surface waters through migration of fluids from decomposing carcasses outside the zone.
The harshness of the criticism varied from region to region. Some contributors, for example, stressed the great differences in management and application of measures between England and Scotland, the last region in which slaughter and destruction of animals had been carried out, and the one where it had taken place most efficiently and with most account being taken of the effects of the crisis on the local economy (contribution of Mr Andrew Campbell, Secretary of the Dumfries and Galloway Council).
Organisational problems were, however, reported during the visit. The most serious related to the slaughter operations, the destruction of animals, restrictions on access to the countryside and the licensing system, which disrupted the process of fighting the disease, particularly with regard to bio-security, movement of animals, delays in slaughtering (which could not in practice be carried out within the 24/48 hour limit laid down by the national authorities). Some measures also turned out to be too rigid in the long term, for example the ban on moving animals over such a long period, which led farmers who could not feed their animals to procure feed illegally.
Many farmers testified to the inconsistency of the contiguous culling policy, the way in which slaughter was organised in general and the methods used. In the view of Mr Bruce Jobson, a farmer and agricultural journalist, contiguous culling was useless and the computer models used inadequate, so that they were applied in a way that was unfair and sometimes without any apparent logic. While confusion reigned as regards the lawfulness of the policy, farmers criticised the blanket policy applied, which led to the slaughter of healthy animals with no possibility of proving they were not infected before they were slaughtered.
However, these views were not universally held. In the opinion of Mr David Black, a vet, contiguous culling was not only useful in saving animals and bringing the crisis under control, but also necessary in the absence of other vaccination arrangements. The Commission representatives also confirmed the compatibility of contiguous culling with Community provisions. They pointed out inter alia that the Community provisions on combating foot-and-mouth disease set out in Directive 85/511/EEC were taken into account in national intervention plans, adding that the British intervention plan had been assessed in detail and approved by the Commission in 1993. They were also at pains to point out that the computer models used for contiguous culling were only a decision-making tool, and that while the decisions were certainly not perfect, the programs had nevertheless helped veterinarians to take decisions in the short space of time available.
Disposal of animals
The delays in removal carcasses of culled animals were criticised. Carcass disposal and incineration capacities were inadequate, so that the government departments were forced to fall back on pyres and mass burials.
While there seems to be no evidence that the use of pyres carried any risk of spreading the disease further, the use of this disposal method had an enormous impact on farmers and their families, as well as on the neighbouring population, because of the terrible smell they gave off. Mr Richard Ellison, NFU Director for the north of England, also regretted their effect on public opinion and on the tourism image of the regions concerned. During the visit to the farm of Mrs Cath Aynsley, Whiteside Law, the farmers spoke about the practical problems they had encountered, particularly their disapproval of the choice of location of the pyre, which was taken without any reference to their suggestions and local knowledge, the difficulty of fuelling the pyre adequately over several weeks in a period of wet weather, which reduced its effectiveness, the intolerable smell and the smoke. Similar comments had been made during the visit to the first farm, belonging to Mr Peter Holliday.
Restrictions on access to the countryside
The restrictions on access to the countryside were perceived very negatively by the local communities and those engaged in tourism who suffered their effects, with farmers divided in their opinions as to their necessity and usefulness.
Several contributors objected to:
- the blanket nature of the decisions taken;
- the inadequate consultation of local people (Mr Stoker Frater, of the Northumberland branch of the NFU);
- the fact that these decisions were taken by the veterinary services alone, although they were not in a position to gauge their effects on the local economy (Mr John Walker, representative of the Keswick Crisis Alliance).
Other people mentioned:
- the slowness in lifting restrictions (Mrs Cathy Trimmer, hotel keeper and rambling guide);
- the messages in newspapers asking the public to stay away from affected areas, which had a very harmful effect on the image of local tourism (Mrs Chris Collier, Chief Executive, Cumbria Tourist Board);
- the drop in demand and slump in business brought about by these decisions (Mr Jeremy Philpson, Research Centre, Newcastle University, Mr Rex Toft, Leader of Cumbria County Council).
Restrictions on animal movements
According to Veronica Waller of the NFU, the licensing system for animal movements did not function as it should have done, particularly because of a series of computer problems and cumbersome rules which required extensive administrative follow-up.
3.4. At the financial compensation stage
Financial compensation for farmers affected by culling was provided for by the government. Many contributors considered it inadequate, however, in that it did not compensate for:
- the damage and loss of income undergone by farmers whose animals were not slaughtered but who suffered from the restrictions imposed;
- the losses suffered by other sectors connected with, or dependent on, agriculture;
- the cost of cleaning and disinfecting markets, which according to the chairman of Longtown market was substantial.
Others thought that the valuation system should be reviewed. The targets of their criticism were:
- the method of appointing valuers (Mr Trevor Hebdon of the Carlisle firm of valuers Harrison and Hetherington);
- the rules for valuing pedigree animals (Mr Russell Brown, MSP for Dumfries);
- the 14-day appeal period granted to farmers, which was too short for them to contest the valuation of their animals (Mrs Sue Wrennal, farmer).
These financial distortions were often a source of division and competition among farmers and between farmers and other professionals. In some cases, however, the tension was relieved by the granting or promise of local aid (declaration of Cumbria as a rural action zone, local recovery plans and economic recovery measures put in place in Scotland, deferment of deadlines granted by the inland revenue service, aid from the Cumbria Tourist Board, etc.).
4. The lessons to be learned from the crisis
In the course of the reports and testimonies heard during the visit contributors often pinpointed the needs that should be addressed and the essential lessons they felt should be learned from the crisis. Opinions sometimes differed, but the wish never to see such a situation happen again was unanimous.
Improved measures were felt to be necessary in the following areas:
- registration of farms and identification of animals (particularly sheep), although measures had been taken since the crisis;
- transport and movement of animals, despite the acknowledged practical difficulty of reducing the distances travelled and the duration of journeys, given the regional organisation and the concentration of slaughter facilities in certain areas;
- monitoring transactions in animals outside the market, from their origin to their final destination;
- legislation on swill;
- border controls and policies on imports of meat into the EU.
Other recommendations were made, particularly as regards a new strategy for combating and preventing foot-and-mouth disease. There was a wish for the latter to be more comprehensive, consensual, adapted to the local level and scientifically validated, with a commonly held desire to avoid the pitfalls of the last crisis and to learn lessons from them, particularly in the areas of:
- making preparations in the form of
. revised, rethought long-term emergency crisis plans;
. adequate investment in electronic systems;
. making available enough trained human resources, particularly local ones;
. building up a body of European expertise;
. carrying out a study to deepen and validate studies on the environmental risks linked to the different methods of disposing of carcasses (burial and pyres), the effects of smoke from pyres on human health, the role of the wind in spreading infection, etc.
- a chain of command with
. a less centralised, more integrated approach, guaranteeing effective cooperation and integrated management for farming and other economic activities,
. improved cooperation with local players and consultation with them when taking decisions, as well as a reinforcement of local powers in areas where local knowledge plays a decisive role (licensing and animal welfare, for example);
. rapid decision-making (e.g. an immediate stop to animal movements and prompt intervention by the army) planned over the long term;
. real account being taken of local expertise;
. better recognition of the importance of the various forms of economic activity, their interdependence and synergies;
. more attention to sustainability of agricultural activities and the needs of young farmers.
- instruments to:
. reinforce the legality and usefulness of contiguous culls, and hence the relevance of slaughtering infected and non-infected animals;
. re-examine the policy of vaccination and clarify the usefulness and methodology of preventive and emergency vaccination and the situation as regards the availability or otherwise of vaccines and the progress of research in this area;
. improve management of restrictions on access to the countryside by studying the effectiveness of relevant measures, agreeing on the need for greater flexibility and quicker reopening arrangements so as to soften the impact on farmers and local economies when crises last for a long time.
- communication which will protect the image of the affected regions and maintain contact with the affected rural community (on the basis, for example, of appropriate websites, an adequate number of phone lines, availability of advisers, establishment of a contact centre for the media, etc.).
- compensation and financial support instruments to:
. make good the inadequacies of the present system;
. take better account of the real, direct or indirect, damage caused by the epidemics in their various forms;
. study the usefulness and feasibility of aid funds or insurance schemes for farmers, as well as an extension of these to cover the activities most affected by such crises;
. clarify the different forms of public assistance available;
. draw up plans to provide assistance with relaunching activities affected by the crisis.
- preventive instruments particularly in the areas of bio-security and animal welfare.
In the opinion of some other people, however, these measures would be inadequate without a broader discussion of the types of Community aid granted under the common agricultural policy and the place to be given to rural development in general, and a firm undertaking by the political authorities to promote a more dynamic, durable and employment-oriented rural economy.
Summary record of the visit by a delegation from the committee to the Netherlands from 23 to 25 May 2002
The second field visit made by the delegation from the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease was to the Netherlands. Between 23 and 25 May 2002, the delegation visited the provinces most affected by the crisis, namely Overijssel, Flevoland and Friesland. The delegation attended four public meetings (in Zwolle, Epe, Leeuwarden and Dokkum), visited two farms that had been affected by the crisis, had a meeting with the Director of the Central Institute for Animal Disease Control at Lelystad and attended luncheons and dinners hosted by the provincial authorities. Farmers, businessmen directly or indirectly affected by the 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) crisis, experts and the national or local stakeholders invited were given ample opportunity to put across their message and proposals, draw attention to the problems experienced and the effects of the crisis, and give their opinions on the eradication policy that had been pursued.
1. Message and recommendations
— The FMD crisis that occurred in 2001 should not be allowed to happen again and eradication policy should be adjusted to take account of the lessons learned. A different approach should be adopted: the criteria for action could no longer be confined solely to technical factors or be dictated by commercial considerations. They should include social and ethical considerations and take account of the general public's desire to see rural activities continued, healthy animals kept alive and a modern, humane and socially acceptable policy adopted.
Several of the people met by the delegation also maintained that vaccination should be used in future in order to prevent the slaughter of healthy animals in the future.
This was the message put across by most of the speakers at the public meetings, who felt that it was mainly a question of the necessary political will being shown.
This message was reflected in a large number of recommendations, the main among which emphasized the need for:
7 better preparation
as regards decision-making, the allocation of responsibilities and participation by those affected in the drafting of emergency plans.
7 more resources
to meet information, monitoring and control needs.
7 more efficient coordination of the various people involved
as part of an agreed decentralisation process that takes account of the important role played in the management of the crisis by local stakeholders and practitioners (the former have a better understanding of the local situation and the latter have a close relationship with breeders).
7 close cross-border cooperation
between Member States, research institutes and veterinary services, to pool experience and carry out simulation exercises.
7 support for third countries
to help them tackle and eradicate the disease.
7 improved communication and information provision
aimed at the population groups concerned and the media, to explain the benefits, substance and consistency of Community policy and clarify the rules adopted, particularly in connection with:
imports, given that, in connection with the vaccination option, many breeders feel that Community products of animal origin are not treated in the same way as products imported from third countries which conduct campaigns of vaccination against FMD;
risks deriving from the consumption of products from vaccinated animals, to convince consumers, food processors and other countries that there is no threat to human health.
7 more concerted use of scientific knowledge and modern tools, together with more intensive research efforts
particularly in connection with:
vaccines and the related tests, with the aim of using marked vaccines and validating existing tests;
transport, to clarify the role played by this sector.
7 a better approach
on the part of operational services and national authorities, so as to:
ensure that the relevant legal provisions take due account of public concerns and the veterinary and non-veterinary effects of the crisis on the economies of the areas affected;
take greater account, during the decision-making process, of practical issues such as the transport of milk or animal welfare;
focus on finding specific solutions, as called for by amateur breeders, who maintain that there is no need to slaughter animals kept as pets;
introduce measures that take account of 'veterinary borders' rather than geographical borders;
acknowledge the link between farming and tourism, with a view to determining their shared interests in the eradication strategy.
7 more appropriate support schemes
providing compensation more quickly to a broader range of people, on a more equitable basis in the various Member States, given that the way in which costs are borne is not harmonised within the EU and that in some countries, such as the Netherlands, it is the breeders themselves who bear the cost of financial compensation not covered by the Community budget;
responding to the direct and indirect financial losses deriving from FMD control measures;
alleviating the emotional impact of epidemics.
7 a tightening-up of rules
monitoring of animals on farms, which should be consistent with animal rights and the need to pay due attention to product quality with reference to public health and animal welfare requirements;
the identification and registration of animals;
border controls, together with efforts to raise awareness among travellers of the risk of introducing the virus, where appropriate modelling such controls on the methods used in third countries, such as Australia and the United States, where controls are considered to be more stringent;
the transport of animals.
2. Crisis management problems
The desire expressed for a change in control policy stems largely from the problems which arose in connection with the management of the 2001 FMD crisis.
u Various speakers drew attention to:
- the chaotic way in which the control policy was managed and the illogical and ineffective implementation of national law;
- the authorities' lack of preparedness: planning was inadequate and there was a failure properly to anticipate practical problems (feeding of animals, collection of milk, movement of persons, renewal of herds, etc.);
- the approach adopted under cover of European law was too compartmentalised, influenced by commercial considerations, antisocial and rigid;
- the lack of a proper scientific basis for the preventive slaughter policy (given the uncertainty over how the disease is transmitted);
- the stringency of the national rules governing restrictions on the transport of animals;
- slipshod, tardy or inadequate communication by government departments with the farming world and the general public and the lack of clear, reliable information, despite the initiatives taken at local level;
- the lack of support for the population groups affected or, in cases where satisfactory support was felt to have been provided, the excessively bureaucratic and centralised aid procedures;
- the arbitrariness of the financial penalties deducted from the compensation granted and the fact that they were disproportionate;
p As regards vaccination, misinformation and the lack of clarity of the information available seem to have had a major influence: according to the speakers, the rural community thought that a vaccination policy would be implemented as soon as the first pockets of infection appeared and that, when it was implemented, this would be done in such a way as to keep the animals alive, while, in fact, the measures adopted resulted in the slaughter of all susceptible animals, including pets. This caused a lot of distress, particularly since the owners of most of the animals slaughtered did not consider them to have been infected.
p The lack of specific aid for the areas affected and of compensation for the loss of income caused by the closure of markets and restrictions on animal movements gave rise to a feeling among the inhabitants of the areas affected of having been abandoned and cut off, as well as to exasperation among the farming community which was obliged to bow to the police and the army and to government 'threats' that financial compensation would be cut.
p The amounts withheld from the financial compensation created a difficult situation and in some cases jeopardised the survival of farms unable to replace the lost animals. The penalties, which were the result of incorrect implementation of the biosecurity measures, were neither understood nor accepted. A large number of breeders felt them to be unjustified (given that no similar penalties were imposed in the United Kingdom) and disproportionate, after all the efforts they felt they had made to ensure that the government measures were properly applied.
u Several speakers expressed alternative views:
- Mr Eland, mayor of the village of Epe, drew attention to the speed with which the crisis had been brought to an end, while deploring the excessive cost - both to herds and to society as a whole - of the eradication policy adopted, as well as the fact that it had focused too heavily on health considerations. During the farm visits, the breeders, Mrs Jonas and Mr van de Ploeg, had confirmed that the response at local level had been swift and that the area had been very calm. They drew attention to the importance of the role played by the local veterinary services in providing information, explanations and support with procedures and the often excessively technical approach taken to problems.
- Mr van der Hoeve, official in Gelderland Province, said that the organisational arrangements made at regional level had been effective and that the provincial authorities had played their role to the full and discharged their responsibilities, while Mr Bijman, member of the Friesland Provincial Council, drew attention to the enormous efforts that the national and local authorities, the general public and farmers had made together to bring the epidemic to an end.
- Mr Oosterveld, Director for the northern region within the Ministry for Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries, said that this effective coordination had been made possible by daily meetings with those directly involved (local authorities, police, advisers, army representatives, etc), daily press conferences and information campaigns (communication with municipal and regional authorities, information on the Internet). Without wishing to gloss over the mistakes made, he believed that the measures adopted had been appropriate, given the circumstances.
u Other speakers drew attention to gaps in scientific knowledge, particularly with regard to how the virus was transmitted (Mr Roemaat, representative of the Gelderland Provincial Farmers' Union (GLTO)) and to diagnosis and experience of the disease in exotic animals (Mr Hiddingh, Director of Emmen Zoo).
3. Effects of the crisis
The FMD crisis affected the whole of the rural community. It would have a lasting impact both in economic terms and in social terms, owing to the ethical issues raised by the eradication policy implemented and the psychological and emotional reactions it had generated.
3.1. Economic damage
In addition to hitting the farming sector, the FMD crisis had severely affected tourist activities in the Netherlands. However, other ancillary activities had also been severely disrupted (transport, business, retail trade, associations, etc.) by the restrictions on the movement of persons and the sealing off of the areas affected. Owing to the failure to provide compensation for all the damage caused by the crisis, it had proved difficult to make good the financial losses incurred.
3.2. Social damage
The crisis had had a considerable emotional and psychological impact on those directly affected - the breeders (both professional and amateur) and their families. Mr Altena, head of the 'School met de bijbel' (Bible-based school), said that the children had been shocked at having to give up animals they considered to be healthy and which they loved. In addition to the breeders, who had felt desperate and psychologically isolated, all social life had been destroyed at the height of the crisis. Tensions had also appeared between the farms that had been affected and those that had been spared. Several speakers (including Pastor Niesing of Kootwijkerbroek, Mr Dunnik, a policeman in the village of Oene; Mr Dijkgraaf, chairman of the 'IJsselvallij' support committee, and Mr Cazemier, mayor of Dongeradeel) confirmed the uncertainty and in some cases frustration and anger felt by the breeders, a feeling exacerbated by the financial penalties and the concern that the same approach might be adopted towards a future crisis.
4. Views on the eradication policy pursued
Many speakers rejected the eradication policy pursued during the crisis on the grounds that the measures had been implemented in a cruel, inhumane fashion (the words used by Mr Aalpoel, member of the breeders' support committee in 'The Triangle' and Mr Beltman, one of the breeders affected). Mr Lanting, Farmers' Union representative for the northern region (NLTO), nonetheless drew attention to differences of opinion existing within the farming community, with pig breeders more in favour of stamping out, out of concern for the possible commercial repercussions, than dairy farmers, who stood firmly against this policy.
The criticism focused in particular on the slaughter of such a large number of healthy animals, which some felt to have been unnecessary, scandalous and out of keeping with civilised modes of behaviour. The vast majority of the members of the rural communities that the delegation met stated their preference for vaccination of animals in the event of a crisis and for the vaccinated animals to be kept alive (Mr Egberink, veterinary surgeon), in the belief that it should be possible to put in place appropriate controls and to use products from vaccinated animals. Some also argued in favour of preventive vaccination, so as to guard against the appearance of the disease and to no longer be obliged to resort to the mass slaughter of animals, pointing out that this policy had proved effective in the past and that it had not been proved conclusively that vaccination could conceal the presence of the disease.
The NLTO argued in favour of protective emergency vaccination being used in the future, on the basis of internationally-validated vaccines and tests and the marketing of products from vaccinated animals at their normal prices. The organisation took the view that the stamping-out policy would be neither ethical nor feasible in the event of a serious crisis, given the limited destruction capacities and the serious social and economic consequences that the policy would have.
Some speakers warned politicians about the increased risk of infection resulting from the expansion of trade and the reappearance of the FMD virus in many parts of the world, drawing attention to the forthcoming enlargement of the EU and the risk of non-cooperation or even resistance on the part of the rural community were the national authorities to use the same approach again in future.
Few speakers alluded to the drawbacks of vaccination policy, the limited effectiveness of vaccines and consumer concerns about vaccination. Mr Plaisier, veterinary surgeon, nonetheless placed the eradication strategy in its proper context, namely a high risk of propagation of the FMD virus and a major crisis. Mr Plaisier expressed the view that the measures taken had enabled the infection to be kept within the restriction areas. The vaccination campaign had played a large part in this, but, owing to the impossibility of distinguishing between vaccinated and infected animals, the vaccinated animals had been slaughtered. Mr van der Hoeve, official in Gelderland Province, pointed out that the government had weighed up the risk of isolating the families and farms affected but, given the situation, had preferred to slaughter the vaccinated animals.
The director of Emmen Zoo, Mr Hiddingh, said that uncertainties remained as to the vaccination of exotic animals and that zoos and animal parks should not be obliged to vaccinate, given that an effective vaccination policy in the livestock sector reduced the risk of infection in zoos, which were already protected by precautionary and quarantine measures.
It emerged from the discussions that there was a lot of confusion about the actual risks deriving from the consumption of products from vaccinated animals. Some saw this as a non-issue, given that such products had long been eaten without any ill-effect, whilst others felt that the food-processing industry was not treated with the necessary firmness, although they did acknowledge the difficulties involved in establishing products from vaccinated animals on export markets. Mr Bianchi, Director of the Lelystad Veterinary Research Institute, maintained that consumer reluctance and opposition on the part of FMD-free third countries to accepting meat from vaccinated animals, even if marker vaccines were in use, should not be under-estimated.
In Friesland, village people handed the delegation petitions calling for a vaccination policy to be used in place of the systematic slaughter of animals and made clear - albeit in a very peaceful fashion, singing and waving flowers and balloons - that they were firmly opposed to the policy of mass slaughter and that they would not be so docile in the future if their message was not listened to. In the public meetings, representatives of the central government, the local authorities and trade organisations, as well as practitioners, drew attention to the need for a level-headed debate, to clarify the various positions. However, by turning out in such large numbers, the local population showed that such a debate could not be restricted to institutional and trade spheres and that any new strategy (the need for which was universally acknowledged) had to be acceptable to society as a whole.
Summary of the visit by a delegation from the committee to the United Kingdom from 19 to 22 June 2002
From 19 to 22 June 2002 a delegation from Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Foot-and-Mouth Disease visited Wales and the counties of Devon and Gloucestershire in order to interview farmers, other individuals working in the sectors concerned, local representatives and witnesses to the events in these areas which were particularly badly affected by the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis. Seven meetings and numerous encounters took place in the course of the visit, during which the members of the delegation were made fully aware of the various aspects of the crisis, in particular:
- the problems involved in handling the crisis,
- the extent of the financial and psychological effects of the crisis,
- the concern shared by all those with whom the delegation came into contact that they should prepare themselves more effectively for any further outbreaks of the disease.
1. Problems involved in handling the crisis
Several of those interviewed criticised the way in which the crisis was handled and the main targets of their criticism were:
- delays in making decisions or taking action as regards, inter alia, halting movements of animals; the confirmation of suspect cases; the frequent slaughter of animals after the 24- or 48-hour time limits had elapsed; the collection of carcasses; the introduction of animal welfare provisions; the involvement of the army which, when it swung into action, proved to be highly effective in conducting logistical operations (Mr John Jones; Mr Alan Beat, a smallholder and founder of the on-line forum ‘Smallholders Online’; Mrs Carol Trewin).
- organisational problems which prevented operations from proceeding smoothly; these were attributed to:
7 the lack of a suitable emergency plan for dealing with such a large-scale outbreak (Dr P.C. Jinman, a local veterinary surgeon; Mrs Janet Watkins of the Sennybridge Community Action Group; Mr Anthony Gibson, Regional Director of the National Farmers’ Union; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones; Mr John Burnett, MP);
7 the excessively centralised and inflexible nature of the decisions taken (Mr George Willem);
7 a failure to understand or appreciate what was actually happening at local level and in particular the specific characteristics of the regional economies affected, which were highly dependent on agriculture and tourism (Mrs Ann Morgan, a farmer seriously affected by the crisis; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones);
7 insufficient skill to enable operations to be carried out satisfactorily at grassroots level and an inadequate number of veterinary surgeons – the fall in which over the last few years was condemned by several of those interviewed (Mrs Ann Morgan; Dr P.C. Jinman; Mr Reynolds, Mr Tim Brookes, South-West Regional Director of the Landowners’ Association; Mr Edwyn Roderick, of the Epynt Action Group);
7 the lack of resources, particularly in terms of information systems and databases relating to farms and animals (Dr P.C. Jinman);
- the arbitrary nature and on occasions the cruelty of the methods employed, combined with a lack of scientific rationality behind certain decisions (Mr Ian Mitchell, local accounting officer; Mrs Lynne McBride, an affected farmer from Knowstone; Mrs Thelma Willmetts, an affected farmer; Mr Alan Beat; Mrs Janet Bayley; Mr David Heards, a farmer visited on his farm);
- the weakness of the scientific bases used in respect of the spread of the disease (impact of walkers, effectiveness of preventive slaughters, etc.) and mass slaughters, the legality of which and the compatibility of which with Community law were on occasion challenged (Mrs Janet Bayley);
- insufficient financial assistance (Mr John Jones; Mrs Ann Morgan; Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mrs Janet Watkins; Mr John Burnett, MP; Mrs Carol Trewin);
- insufficiently stringent checks at borders (Mr Ian Mitchell, Mr John Jones, Mr Edwyn Roderick);
- the inadequacy of the powers devolved to the Welsh authorities by comparison in particular with the autonomy granted to the Scottish authorities (Mr Richard, NFU);
- lack of communication and information (Mr Alan Beat; Mrs Carol Trewin; Mr Richard;
Mr Phil Owens; Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones; Mr David Heards);
Several of those interviewed (Mr Tim Brookes; Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mr Ian Mitchell; Mr Phil Owens) emphasized this last point and referred to:
- the origin of the disease and the unexplained ways in which it spread to certain farms,
- the vague nature of the terms and conditions (feasibility, vaccine stocks, compensation arrangements, ways of distinguishing vaccinated animals from sick animals, etc.) and the effect which carrying out a vaccination programme would have on trade and on consumer health,
- the criticisms voiced regarding the choice of certain sites used for burying or incinerating carcasses, such as the Sennybridge site,
- the difficulties of securing reliable information, despite the activities of local veterinary surgeons and the availability of Internet sites,
- the failure to take sufficient account of the worries of farmers and their families, who were distressed at being unfairly blamed and held responsible for the situation and furious at certain rumours to the effect that herds had been infected deliberately so that farmers could obtain financial compensation, and ultimately bitter at the scant consideration and understanding shown for the traumatic effect which the slaughter operations had on their farm and on their family,
- the lack of any public inquiry held to clarify the circumstances and to enable lessons to be drawn from the outbreak.
The lack of information and communication thus had an effect at a number of levels (national and local authorities; central government and those involved locally; farmers and their representative organisations): farmers reproached the trade unions for their inability to distance themselves from the government's views and for their failure to provide appropriate and clearer information, particularly on the subject of vaccination; for their part the NFU representatives regretted that the Ministry of Agriculture had not responded to their requests for information and had not supplied the necessary information regarding possible recourse to vaccination (Mr Phil Owens; Mrs Ann Morgan; Mr Anthony Gibson; Mr Graham Davey, Group Director, Economic and Community Regeneration, Powys County Council; Mr John Burnett, MP; Mr Tim Brookes; Mr Alan Beat).
According to those interviewed, the problems experienced in handling the crisis had a number of effects:
( Certain decisions were poorly understood, such as country-closure measures which severely penalised many tourist and trade activities, or measure restricting the movement of persons and animals, which complicated daily life, the provision of supplies to affected farms and the proper feeding of livestock (Mr Tim Brookes; Rev. Anthony Hearst).
( The contiguous-slaughter and carcass-disposal operations were perceived as illogical, unjustified and pointless (Mr Phil Owens; Mrs Ann Morgan; Mr John Burnett, MP; Mr David Heards). In certain cases they were allegedly carried out without sufficient regard for biosafety and local conditions and they gave rise to much opposition, in particular where slaughters were carried out solely on the basis of clinical diagnoses, the conclusions of which were rejected by farmers in the absence of blood tests and the results thereof. Spurred on by the low percentage of cases of infection confirmed by the results of blood tests, certain farmers groups strengthened their resistance, as in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire), which led the authorities to agree to blood tests before any animals were slaughtered. Others thought that the operations had been carried out in a rather brutal fashion, without regard for the rights and interests of farmers, and that they entailed significant additional costs (pointless expenditure on the slaughter of healthy animals and on the cleaning and disinfection of non-infected farms; environmental damage caused by the pollution of water and soil at the mass-burial sites and of the air by the pyres; animal-health problems and the socio-psychological damage suffered by the entire farming and rural community).
( Many of those attending the meetings also complained that the compensation granted was incomplete and inadequate and they criticised the terms and conditions attached to such compensation (Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mr John Burnett, MP; Mrs Carol Trewin; Mr Tim Brookes; Mr David Heards). They also pointed out that:
- only farms whose livestock had been slaughtered had received compensation; farms with no livestock and businesses pursuing non-agricultural activities had received nothing, even though they were severely affected by the restrictions;
- the assessment procedures led to discrepancies in the amounts of compensation paid, according to the time at which animals were slaughtered;
- affected farmers had not had proper rights of appeal.
2. The economic and socio-psychological impact of the outbreak
Many of those interviewed dwelt upon the impact of the crisis in order to emphasise the extent and the lasting nature of the effects which the outbreak would have on economic activity in the regions visited and the farming and rural populations concerned.
The economic effects were frequently described in terms of the number of animals slaughtered (between 6 and 9 million, according to the interviewees), of turnover, of jobs and income lost, of farms and businesses closing down, of certain regions (particularly in mountainous areas) becoming deserted, of mounting debts owed by economic operators, of postponed investments and financial problems, etc. (Mr Jeremy Pope, Deputy Chairman of the RDA; John Jones; Mrs Diane Organ, MP; Mr Graham Davey; Mr Ian Mitchell; Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mr Tim Brookes; Mrs Jane Lewis, of the Welsh Tourist Board).
The socio-psychological effects, although less measurable, were described in terms of the stress and the suffering experienced in affected farms, and of isolation, abandonment, powerlessness, even injustice, despair, anger and rancour. In this connection a number of invited experts, farmers and ordinary witnesses to the events emphasized the huge social, mental and human cost of the crisis, referring to the intense emotional impact which the slaughters, the pyres and the carcass-disposal convoys had on farmers, their families and young people (Mr Tim Brookes; Jane Lewis; Janet Watkins; Phil Owens; Dr P.C. Jinman; Mr Michael Johns; Rev. Anthony Hearst; Mrs Ann Morgan; Mr Ian Mitchell; Mr Alan Beat).
3. Needs, requirements and recommendations
Above and beyond these observations, the people interviewed expressed an awareness of, and concern at, the risk of future outbreaks and many of them were anxious that they would never again have to experience what they went through in 2001. Hence they wished to be better prepared and to adopt a more acceptable approach to eradication of the disease.
This better preparation will involve in particular:
- revision of emergency plans, which should be more suitable, more flexible and more comprehensive, and better understood and accepted (Mr Tim Brookes; Mrs Janet Bayley; Mrs Janet Watkins; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones);
- means of enabling decisions and action to be taken swiftly on the basis, in particular, of adequate resources, an early-warning system, immediate involvement of the army and an immediate halt to movements of animals (Dr P.C. Jinman; Mr Garreth Bon; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- improved communication between the authorities involved, farmers and the rural community (P.C. Jinman; Janet Watkins; Mr Tim Brookes; Mr George Willem);
- establishment of a proper flow of information and the gathering of more accurate information (Mr Graham Davey; Mr Steve Webb, MP; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- a review of the decision-making process and chain (in order - where necessary - to increase local powers and more easily to recognise and make better use of local knowledge and skills, in particular those of veterinary surgeons, the involvement of whom was acknowledged as a valuable means of ensuring an adequate level of biosafety in farms) (Dr P.C. Jinman; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- further analyses designed to assess the effectiveness and the extent of the restrictions in the affected areas, the scale of, and the economic justification for, movements of animals and, in more general terms, the development of scientific data and models which are capable of underpinning the eradication strategy adopted (Mr Tom Till; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones);
- the availability of more suitable diagnoses (Mr Tom Till; Mrs Janet Bayley; Mr Tom Griffith-Jones);
- training courses, particularly for the benefit of veterinary surgeons (Mr Garreth Bon);
- new arrangements and a new hierarchy for the disposal of carcasses so that no further use need be made of pyres and mass burial sites (Mr John Burnett, MP; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- more stringent checks at borders in order to keep the disease out and to reduce trafficking in illegal meat (Dr P.C. Jinman; John Jones; Mr Richard of the NFU; Mr George Willem; Mr Edwyn Roderick; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- clarification of the rules on imports (Mr Phil Owens; Mrs Diane Organ, MP);
- revision of the aid and compensation schemes so that full compensation of a suitable nature can be provided more quickly (Mr Tom Griffith-Jones; Mr Graham Davey; Mr Ian Mitchell; Mr John Burnett, MP; Mr Steve Webb, MP; Mr Peter Clark);
- amendments to the terms and conditions and to the limits applicable to state aid (Mr Graham Davey; Mr George Willem, Mr Jeremy Pope; Mr Steve Webb, MP);
- introduction of support schemes designed to help the families concerned to get through crises and cope with the repercussions (Mr Michael Johns);
- greater clarification and more thorough consideration of the arguments for and against vaccination - a topic on which opinion continued to be very divided.
( Those interviewed who were in favour of vaccination based their argument principally on the need to employ more humane methods than mass slaughter and they pointed out that a vaccination strategy would have less impact on related activities and on the environment (Mrs Janet Watkins, Mr Christopher Thomas Everard). In this connection they criticised the lack of research carried out into vaccines, the untapped existing potential for producing cheaper and more effective vaccines and the unjustified hostility of the agri-food industries vis-`-vis products from vaccinated animals (Mrs Janet Bayley; Mr Phil Owens, Mr John Jones). Other contributors were more reserved; the NFU representatives took the view that vaccination could be used only if effective vaccines and tests were available (Mr Richard, NFU). Outlets for products from vaccinated animals should also be given financial support at non-depreciated prices (Mr Garreth Bon). Other people, however, thought that it would be preferable to step up precautionary measures (in particular at borders), to raise public awareness regarding the risks of an outbreak and to place emphasis on a speedy reaction to a crisis rather than counting on vaccination campaigns which they deemed inadequate as a means of eradicating the disease (Mr Ian Mitchell, amongst others). Many people, however, wish to see a genuine debate launched on the vaccination issue with a view to clarifying the advantages, the implications and the terms and conditions of opting for vaccination (the various types of vaccine, how and when to vaccinate, the actual state of vaccine research, the reaction from supermarkets and consumers) (Mrs Ann Morgan and Mr Tim Brookes, amongst others).
Lastly, many of those interviewed called for a new approach to outbreaks of the disease, based on four main planks:
- better planning of the effects which eradication decisions have on all economic, agricultural and non-agricultural activities (Mr Graham Davey);
- better use to be made of local skills and knowledge (Mr Anthony Lynch);
- greater account to be taken of considerations relating to animal health and biosafety and greater vigilance as regards the application thereof (Mr Tim Brookes);
- above all, the search for a coherent, integrated and well-thought-out strategy in the overall context of epizootic risks, and one which is humane and worthy of modern society.
List of Acronyms and Glossary of Terms
List of acronyms
DG SANCO Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General - European Commission
FVO Food and Veterinary Office at the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General
OIE International Office of Epizootics (See also epizootic)
TSE Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies - slow, fatal transmissible brain diseases that affect humans, sheep, cattle, deer and other mammals
Glossary of terms
Animo system, European Commission decision from 1991 that regulates measures to set up a computerised network linking the veterinary authorities of the Member States in order to facilitate the exchange of information between the competent authorities of the regions in which a health certificate or document accompanying animals and animal products is issued and the competent authorities of the Member State of destination.
Antibody, a protein produced in the blood that fights diseases by attacking and killing bacteria or viruses.
Antigen material, a substance that causes the production of antibodies in the body.
Avian Influenza, AI is a bird disease that is capable of causing very high mortality (up to 100%) in poultry, and until 1981 the highly pathogenic form was known as fowl plague.
Bluetongue, this virus usually causes severe disease only in certain breeds of sheep but can occur in subclinical form in other ruminants.
Carrier animals, animals in which the virus can under certain circumstances still be detected more than 28 days after infection but which may possibly not be producing any antibodies to non-structural proteins or displaying clinical symptoms.
Classical swine fever, viral haemorragic disease affecting pigs and wild boar that causes severe production losses and can occur in hyperacute, acute or chronic forms.
Contingency plan, set of carefully planned and alternative strategies developed as actions in response to uncertain events such as an FMD outbreak.
Cull, to kill animals, especially the weaker or diseased members of a particular group.
24/48 hours contiguous cull, a policy strategy for curbing an FMD epidemic that consists of slaughtering susceptible animals at infected farms within 24 hours of the infection's being diagnosed and slaughtering susceptible animals at neighbouring farms within 48 hours.
3 km cull, a policy strategy for controlling the FMD outbreak by culling livestock (sheep, pigs and goats) within a 3 km radius of an infected farm.
Emergency vaccination, a protective inoculation strategy that is performed in the face of an epidemic in a localised area.
Endemic, an endemic disease is one present in an animal population at all times.
Epidemic, a disease affecting, or tending to affect, a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time.
Epizootic, a disease which affects a large number of animals in a large area at the same time and spreads rapidly. The equivalent term to epidemic in humans. (See epidemic).
Eradication, set of policies and actions designed to eliminate completely FMD virus following an outbreak or disease.
FMD, a highly contagious viral infection primarily of cloven-hoofed domestic and wild animals. The disease is caused by an apthovirus and characterised by vesicles, with subsequent erosions in and around the mouth.
FMD of the Pan-Asia O Type, one out of the seven different forms or serotypes of FMD virus. FMD viruses evolve, so that for each serotype there are several different strains. Within those strains there are different sub-strains called 4isolates4, which derive from individual outbreaks.
FMD-free country where vaccination is not practised, a status granted by the OIE, through recognition procedures, that officially declares that the country is FMD free without vaccination based on the facts that it has not suffered an outbreak for the past 12 months, not performed vaccinations for at least 12 months and that it has not imported vaccinated animals since the cessation of vaccination.
FMD-free status, declaration granted by the OIE, through a set of recognition procedures, that leads to official recognition that a zone or member country is free from FMD.
Infected zones, areas under Infected Area Order Restrictions. On confirmation of FMD an Infected Zone is imposed which extends to a minimum of 10 km around the infected place.
Mass culls, large scale increases in the slaughter regime of animals.
Newcastle disease, a viral disease of birds caused by infection with avian paramyxovirus type 1 (APMV-1), of which there are nine serotypes.
Non-vaccination policy, strategy of no inoculation of animals implemented in the EU, based on previous and successful eradication of FMD at Community level.
OIE, an intergovernmental organisation which gathers technical reports on animal diseases in each member country (at present 158 countries are members of the OIE) and disseminates this information to other countries.
OIE4s A list, category list organised by the organisation that incorporates those transmissible diseases which have the potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, which have serious socio-economic or public health consequences and which are of major importance in international trade in animals and animal products.
Pathogen, any small life form, such as a bacterium or a virus, that can cause a disease.
Prophylactic vaccination, mass vaccination for long-term prevention when FMD is endemic or recurrent.
Protective inoculation, the deliberate introduction into the body of a micro-organism in order to induce immunity to a disease and generate a protective strategy.
3 ABC proteins, type of antigen. (See also antigen).
Ring vaccination concept, strategy of FMD outbreak control in which suspected cases are isolated using contact tracing, close surveillance and vaccinations.
Risk analysis, a process designed to perform a scientific evaluation of the potential dangers and consequences of a given policy strategy conducted on the basis of assessment and risk management.
Serological tests, scientific studies of blood serum and antibodies aimed at determining the existence of an infection and possible viral activity.
Shift system, European Council decision from 1992 that regulates measures for the computerisation of veterinary import procedures comprising an information procedure in cases where an official veterinarian at a border inspection post rejects a consignment and the implementation of databases containing full information on Community import requirements for animals and products.
Slaughter, to remove all sources of a virus presence by destroying both infected animals and any that could potentially be incubating or harbouring the virus.
Stamping-out, a control strategy that involves culling infected animals (thought to have been exposed to the disease) as soon as possible coupled with the tracing and slaughtering of dangerous contacts.
Standing Veterinary Committee, a regulatory committee now replaced by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health whose responsibility is to assist the European Commission in the development of food safety measures.
Suppressive vaccination, see vaccination-to-kill policy.
Swine vesicular disease, a highly contagious disease of swine caused by an enterovirus from the picornavirus family. The virus is significant in its extraordinary resistance to environmental factors.
Vaccination-to-kill policy, emergency vaccination and subsequent slaughter of a limited number of animals in a restricted area.
Vaccination-to-live policy, emergency vaccination of a limited number of animals in a restricted area.
Vesicular virus diseases, highly contagious diseases developed by infectious organisms that are submicroscopic with the form of a bladder-like vesicle and that can multiply within certain living host cells.
 OJ C 21 E, 24.1.2002, pp. 259, 339
 OJ C 72 E, 21.3.2002, pp. 245, 342
 Type O FMD last appeared in the Evros region of Greece in September 1996. It was eradicated by means of a slaughter policy without vaccination. Greece regained its OIE status of 'FMD-free country not practising vaccination' in May 1998. It lost this status again in July 2000, following the introduction of the type Asia 1 virus. This virus had already been reported in Greece in 1961, in the province of Evros, when partial slaughter and vaccination brought it under control (source FAO).
 The OIE is an intergovernmental organisation set up by the international agreement of 25 January 1924 and is responsible for guaranteeing the sanitary safety of world trade in animals. In particular, it has a duty to provide information on the existence or evolution of animal diseases in the world and on the means to control them. The standards it lays down are recognised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as reference international sanitary rules (in particular in the context of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures - the SPS Agreement). They serve to facilitate international trade in animals and animal products by laying down recommendations applicable to specific diseases.
 A zone with a specific animal health status as regards FMD may be established in a country which, overall, meets the conditions for a different health status. For this, the zone in question must be separated from the rest of the country by a surveillance zone or a buffer zone, or by physical or geographical barriers, accompanied by animal health measures, so as to prevent any escape of the virus.
 If foot-and-mouth disease breaks out in an FMD free country or zone where vaccination is practised, the country or zone in question can recover its animal health status at the end of the following period:
(a) 12 months after the last case, where stamping-out is applied, or
(b) 2 years after the last case, where stamping-out is not applied,
provided that effective surveillance is carried out.
 OJ L315, 26.11.1985, p.11.
 OJ L 224, 18.8.1990, pp. 13-18.
Directive 90/423 of 26 June 1990 amended the provisions of Directives:
- 85/511 introducing Community measures for the control of foot- and-mouth disease;
- 64/432 on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine;
- 72/462 on health and veterinary inspection problems upon importation of bovine animals and swine and fresh meat from third countries.
 Working document XXIV/2655/1999.
 Commission Decision 91/42/EEC of 8 January 1991 laying down the criteria to be applied when drawing up contingency plans for the control of foot-and-mouth disease, in application of Article 5 of Council Directive 90/423/EEC - OJ L 23, 29.1.1991, pp. 29 - 30.
 Recommendations in respect of contingency plans for epidemic diseases VI/5211/95, contingency plans for foot-and-mouth disease in non-vaccinating countries VI/6319/98/Rev 1 and for diagnostic laboratories VI/6319/98 rev.1 (the latter refers, as regards biosecurity issues, to the criteria set out in 'Minimum standards for laboratories working with foot-and-mouth disease virus in vitro and in vivo', European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease - FAO - 26th Session, Rome, April 1985, Doc. VI/6684/96).
 Report DG(SANCO) 3318/2001.
 OJ L 302, 21.12.1972, pp. 28-54.
 Council Directive 89/227/EEC of 21 March 1989, OJ L 93, 6.4.1989, pp. 25-35.
 Council Directive 91/69/EEC of 28 January 1991, OJ L 46, 19.2.1991, pp. 37-39.
 23 February 2001.
 Foot and Mouth Disease 2001, Lessons to be Learned Inquiry, p. 60.
 According to Mr Oosterveld, Director within the Ministry for Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries, these penalties were set by ministerial order on the basis of criteria relating to the existence and upkeep of registers, to hygiene standards and to the implementation of eradication measures.
 In their response to the draft report the CA provided additional information that casts doubt upon this assumption. They noted that alternative explanations could be put forward linked to the FMD outbreaks in N Ireland. The CA concludes " the lack of more precise information and the complexity of the commercial channels make it impossible to know exactly where the calves at the origin of the Netherlands outbreak were contaminated".
 OJ L 224, 18.8.1990, pp. 19-28.
 EUR 335 million for the UK, 39 million for the Netherlands, 3.3 million for France and 2.7 million for Ireland.
 The report on the FVO mission to the UK on 20-24 August 2001 does not rule out the possibility of overpayment in some cases, calling into question the freedom stock farmers had to choose an expert and the calculation of compensation on the basis of a percentage of the estimated value of the animal.
 According to Mr Oosterveld, Director within the Ministry for Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Fisheries, these penalties were set by ministerial order on the basis of criteria relating to the existence and upkeep of registers, to hygiene standards and to the implementation of eradication measures.
 To avoid jurisdictional disputes, provide information to stakeholders and practical assistance to farmers and small business affected, protect the tourist reputation of the areas affected, solve local problems, help the areas to rebuild, and ensure that the non-vaccination policy was reassessed.
 The areas between Zwolle, Deventer and the River IJssel.
 The policy under which all animals in a given area are slaughtered so as to prevent them from spreading the virus further afield.
 Public meetings at Builth Wells, Market Hall, Okehampton and the Forest of Dean and a short meeting at Welshpool Livestock Sales; a dinner hosted in Llandrindod Wells by the Welsh National Assembly’s agriculture committee; a visit to the Sennybridge disposal site; a dinner hosted in Exeter by Devon County Council; a visit to David Heard’s farm at Okehampton; discussions with farmers and other persons affected at Knowstone Village Hall, a meeting at Alveston on the costs of the crisis; a dinner hosted by Gloucestershire County Council at the Four Pillars Hotel, Tortworth Court.
 In this context the enforcement of a compulsory 20-day immobilisation period for all recently purchased livestock was criticised on a number of occasions ((Dr P.C. Jinman; Mrs Ann Morgan; Mr Jeremy Pope).
 According to the farmers concerned, all the tests carried out eventually proved negative.