Cumbria County Council News Release today

: 14 May 2002

'Never Again', Cumbria Foot and Mouth Inquiry Panel told

The horrors of last year's foot and mouth disease outbreak must not happen again, members of Cumbria's independent Foot and Mouth Inquiry panel were told last night (Monday, May 13) at the first of four public meetings across the County. Members of the inquiry panel, headed by its chairman, Professor Phil Thomas, heard comments and opinions at a public meeting attended by nearly 40 people at The Oval, Salterbeck, Workington. Professor Thomas said afterwards:

"Everyone recognised that there could be another outbreak of foot and mouth in the future, and there was great concern that nothing seems to have been done towards closing the borders against the disease. But no matter what happens, there was a feeling that it has been such a horrific process that no one must go through it again. I think it would be impossible to get the public to accept a re-run of what happened."

Professor Thomas added there were speakers at the meeting, many of them farmers, who were still angry and close to tears over their experiences. Many echoed the widespread criticism of poor communications during the outbreak from the then Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF), later the Department for Food and Rural Affairs. They were also critical of the operation to dispose of animal carcasses. Strong complaints were made that the disposal site at Distington had been set up without consulting local residents.

For the future, some sheep farmers at the meeting wanted a positive change in agriculture, but could see no way forward for them in the aftermath of the outbreak. Professor Thomas said there was a general welcome for the action of the Panel in going out to meet people and giving them an opportunity to make their voices heard. The remaining public meetings are tonight at the Coronation Hall, Ulverston, tomorrow (Wednesday May 15) at Appleby Public Hall, and Thursday at Longtown Memorial Hall. Doors open at all venues at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.