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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 10:06 GMT
Foot-and-mouth: Your reaction to the crisis
As the disease spreads across the country, farmers are now coming to terms with yet another crisis to hit the industry.
Many have just come through the BSE disaster and the impact of the foot-and-mouth disease will cause hundreds to go out of business. But the effect is being felt far beyond the UK's farming industry.
Weekend walkers are being advised not to cross fields, a cross-country running event is under threat and horse-racing and hunting meetings have been cancelled.
How is it affecting you? Has the outbreak kept you off work or from school? Is the government doing enough to prevent the outbreak spreading further?
I am studying agricultural engineering and I, like many other fellow students, am being affected by this outbreak. All movements to the farm are banned which means no lectures.
I don't think some of the students understand the havoc this virus causes. I can sense that if farmers get compensation there will be an uproar from the city goers who don't understand the scale of the destruction to farmers' livelihoods! I would like to see Britain ban the import of foreign animals and meats. After all where has this sprouted from?
Not only should farmers be compensated but so should butchers. People have started to panic buy, and without any more stocks of meat coming in how are the butchers supposed to survive?
I'm sure many are going to lose their livelihoods, so they need to be compensated too, after all none of this is their fault.
Patrick, Devon, England
I think that the Kennel Club should take responsibility and announce now that it will cancel the Crufts dog show due to be held in Birmingham in 2 weeks time.
I have worked with farmers in Derbyshire for the last 20 years. During the last four years I have witnessed many medium sized committed family farms come under tremendous pressure from the appalling economic pressures they have to endure to bring the British public the top quality produce they demand. This quality in terms of animal welfare, hygiene, and down to earth wholesomeness, is second to none, but the lack of understanding and support from their own countrymen at a
time like this
is unforgivable. I witnessed the 67 outbreak in Shropshire, and the amount of personal grief on top of unbearable hardship for those affected is unimaginable.
I cannot begin to comprehend the scale of the problem of the foot and mouth outbreak. Neither do I think that television news programmes can ever really relay this to the general public. What I do not understand at all is why reporters and camera crews are sent to farms and areas where there is an outbreak. I do not need to see a reporter standing near Dartmoor nor do I need to see them near a cow shed. I know what cows and sheep look like, why do reporters need to go to these locations? Surely at best all they can do is tell us what the problem is and at worst they themselves could be spreading the disease. I realise that people want the news but at what risk to the farming and general community.
So once more the selfish ramblers are refusing to see sense and behave like sane and reasonable people. I suppose we should expect no less from people who have before now insisted on using footpaths over which houses have been mistakenly built.
Why are people like this rewarded with "Right to Roam" legislation when they prove time and time again that they do not deserve to be allowed outside their own gardens, much less near a working countryside.
I run a software company which has in the past been on the brink of closure following the spread of a virus through the organisation. Any cry for compensation would, correctly, have been ignored. Why should farmers be compensated with taxpayers' money when their businesses suffer from a virus?
I'm a townie so obviously ignorant of farming matters, but I'd be really grateful if someone could explain why it's necessary to slaughter all these animals? I gather that most animals recover from it, it's not harmful to humans - so surely it's more expensive and wasteful to slaughter animals who only 'may' have the disease, than to wait for the outbreak to burn itself out?
The reason they slaughter the animals is that whilst you are waiting for F&M to be cured, the disease is spreading from those infected animals all over the place through the air, on vehicles, people, and wildlife. So it spreads rapidly. Catherine, do you really think they are doing it for FUN?
Amanda Lewis, Leicestershire
I really don't understand why farmers don't give up all this hard work, dirty hands and the rest, and try getting an office job. Apart from requiring a qualification, a 9-5 job in a comfy office has the additional drawback that you can't claim compensation when you do things wrong.
If FMD can travel airborne up to 165 miles as the NFU say, why are we so complacent about the transfer of GM pollen?
I live around the outbreak area, in a small hamlet near Brentwood. Even the hunt did not ride last weekend for the fear of spreading F&M across farms. In my area over the weekend, there were approximately 30-40 horse riders hacking (riding at a leisured walking pace) around the area (including bridleways, roads, and fields). Horses do not suffer the effects of the virus, so maybe the owners don't care because they won't suffer any consequences?
Could the unprecedented levels of rainfall experienced in the UK last year have provided favourable conditions for the incubation of the foot and mouth virus? Is there a correlation between the number of confirmed cases and levels of rainfall/ waterlogged fields? Of course this would only apply to herds that have remained in the same area for a period of time but it would be interesting to hear what a virologist has to say on the subject.
There appears to be a large number of correspondents who blame farmers for BSE. Farmers may have fed their animals bone meal, but they did not manufacture the animal feed, the feed companies did. Trying to discover what ingredients were in feed was near impossible.
Finally to those suggesting that all farmers are rich. Yes there may be some, but there are also rich lawyers, surgeons, and bankers! Unfortunately, the vast majority of farmers are earning less than the minimum wage. FMD may be the last nail in the farming coffin. Just don't expect the countryside to remain looking as it is.
Steve S, England
Living in an open hill area, where council roads cross open moorland, I am most concerned that walkers and motorists could easily spread the disease albeit unintentionally. Surely National Parks should close all access routes and county councils should be given the power to close all footpaths and bridleways. I also feel that roads crossing open moorland should be closed to through traffic whilst still permitting access for farmers who have stock grazing on those hills.
If everyone made a concerted effort to seal-off the countryside for a few weeks there might just be a chance of containing this terrible disease.
I have been in contact with the farming community all my life. I remember the 1967 outbreak clearly as I was 12 at the time. Farmers have always complained about being poor, but I've never seen a poor one. I wish we could all be that poor, then we could afford brand new BMWs, etc. They never spend money if they can avoid it. I understand there is a vaccine for Foot and Mouth, why is it not routinely used?
I live next door to a farm in the Sussex countryside. All my neighbours have the greatest respect for that enterprise and would not dream of crossing the fields near grazing animals at present. We cannot understand people who insist on visiting the countryside during the present crisis. We wish we could help in some other way and would welcome any suggestions.
Re Iris George's comment about "humane" slaughter. I worked next door to a slaughterhouse recently, and there's nothing humane about the way the people booted animals (who were obviously scared, judging by the noise they made) out of the lorries into the reception yard. People complain about the "pointless slaughter" of animals in at-risk areas. What they really mean is "profitless slaughter". Isn't it pointless to kill animals just for a "nice taste"?
Elizabeth Harpin, New Zealand
I have just phoned friends who have a farm outside Hatherley in Devon and was amazed to hear that although they are thankfully free from the disease, as yet they cannot get any disinfectant. They have phoned the supposed help-line to ask where they can buy it only to be told that they, the help-line, cannot recommend anywhere.
In 1967 I drove a MAFF inspector to farms around Cambridge. At each farm we drove over disinfected straw into and out of the premises but walked around in unchecked footwear. Does this still happen?
I am not a farmer but I work in the countryside and will lose income from any cancellation of sporting events. Will I get compensation? NO.
As a sheep keeper myself, I am surprised at the lack of sympathy for the animals involved in this crisis. It seems to me that little consideration is given to the vast amount of suffering the livestock go through, whilst living with the blistering, ulcerating growths all round their body - because it is not only the feet and mouths which are affected.
I live in the Shropshire countryside and after talking to some of the local farmers today I feel that most are so depressed that I don't think they have the fight left in them to get over this. Since the BSE crisis ended trade on beef has not picked up much and now they are facing something that can potentially wipe them out.
If you don't live or work in the countryside please keep out this is peoples lives you play with at least give them a chance.
It is almost impossible to buy British meat or dairy products here now because of the anxiety caused by these outbreaks of disease. I wonder if someone can explain why Britain's livestock isn't vaccinated against Foot and Mouth disease? Surely this would cost less in the long run?
Laura James, UK
What a nightmare! The farming community is rocked again.
After losing 22,000 jobs a year for the last 2 years and many farms being on the brink of bankruptcy, this is not what we need.
As for all the sick individuals who blame farmers for the outbreak, I wish you would bother to find out the facts.
The Foot and Mouth outbreak will almost certainly hit continental Europe creating much wider problems. Isn't it time that the regulations concerning the transport of live animals was reviewed?
Can anyone tell me why we've had no communication from MAFF about protecting our farm from F&M, but they can find time to send us letters regarding "The Farm Waste Grant". Surely they need to get their priorities right!
I would like to see some of those people who moan about farmers try and earn a living in farming and actually get their hands dirty instead of sitting in their comfy offices with their 9-5 days and their guaranteed income year in year out.
Brian, West Country, UK
In the last twenty years thousands of people have moved to live in the country, me being one of them, and yet they work in the towns. It is all very well MAFF advising townies not to visit the countryside in order to halt the spread of disease, but what about the people who go the other way every day? What should we do?
It should be remembered that after WWII the Government put great pressure on farmers to produce more. This resulted in the Ministry of Agriculture encouraging the use of intensive farming methods to rear livestock quickly and cheaply. The consequences were BSE. But now it's the consumer who is demanding cheap meat. If the British farmer fails to meet supermarket prices then meat is imported from places as far away as Thailand where there are no controls on animal welfare or hygiene. This meat is then packaged in the UK as British produce.
As someone who works in the UK dairy industry, the current crisis will have an effect on the company and its employees. Reading the comments on this page though makes me depressed about the ignorance of people in their view of animals. They are not something soft and cuddly seen in a field as you drive past in a car on the motorway. They are someone's livelihood and way of life.
Funny how it happens just three weeks before the countryside march.
I am a vegan. Why should my taxes be used to compensate these farmers?
Alfred Smith, UK,
Another meat crisis? Just opt out of the sordid, disease-ridden, cruel and wasteful meat industry and go veggie.
The farming lobby come out once again demanding compensation and bleating about their position. Do they really expect us ignorant city-dwellers with 9 to 5s to care? When they respect the food chain we're all a part of, we might show some interest in their own livelihood. Until then, I say let them go out of business. I am no in favour of propping up their lifestyle and income through national taxes than I am for subsidising the UK car-building industry. Some things have run their course - we can all blame the supermarkets and the Government but giving farmers more margins and "realistic" prices for meat is not going to solve the problem because they have demonstrated time after time that think only about themselves.
Following the news reports that supplies of many foot & mouth disinfectants have sold out, people may be interested to know that Soda Crystals (Sodium Carbonate) have been approved by MAFF as a disinfectant for foot & mouth disease. They are readily available from supermarkets and are very inexpensive. They can also be bought in bulk from cash & carry outlets and agricultural suppliers. They should be diluted with 24 parts water. As they do not contain phosphates, enzymes or bleach, they are more environmentally friendly than most disinfectants.
I cannot understand why reporters are travelling into and reporting from affected areas. For every televised commentator there is a crew and vehicle. Surely you would present a better message to the public if YOU kept away from the area and prevented further contamination risk? The public are advised to do so. Why don't you?
Why are the animals not vaccinated against this? There is a vaccine used in the rest of Europe to prevent this but not here. Apparently it isn't expensive to do this. I heard the EU is preventing us from doing this? Can someone explain?
Jo, Wiltshire, UK
I am sick and tired of people complaining about the way farmers have farmed for hundreds of years - if there is a problem its the unnatural environment that causes disease and infection because of the urban living - reducing our defence against infection and illness. Farmers are the guardians of the countryside but they also have to make a living. Farmers do not have a nine to five life like those in the urban jungle. Farming is a lifestyle its something that has been in their blood - unlike being an IT consultant, marketing manager or internet millionaire!
I am surprised at the ignorance of many of your respondents. You can obviously spot who is a city dweller! FMD is a disease that cannot be completely eradicated in Europe as it is prevalent in the Middle and Far East. It only takes a holidaymaker to bring it into this country and it will spread. However it is possible to cut the chance of it becoming epidemic by reducing the distances live animals are transported, e.g by having local slaughter houses - a return to the way things were done before Europe intervened with their big is beautiful idea of only authorising centralised abattoirs!
As a second point, if you haven't realised who is the real culprit in forcing farmers to reduce costs to the bare minimum, just take a look at the discrepancy in shop prices of meat compared to the price of livestock, for the price a decent cut of prime beef you could buy a whole cow at auction!
British farming is so intensive because believe it or not, our welfare policy is the best in the world, but this costs money, and we have to compete with countries who can churn their meat out at lower prices than ours because of their lower welfare standards. If people want to have less intensive farming methods in this country and eat an animal that has had a better life then buy British - also, supermarkets should be made to pay more to British farmers to reward the higher welfare standards - after all, they were one of the forces that raised standards - its rather a shame then that having pushed for it they then rushed off to buy abroad. But it is not acceptable that animals are transported so far to be slaughtered - it is cruel and hypocritical (bearing in mind the debate on hunting with hounds) for the British public to tolerate this.
There are many in this column who would have been squealing like a stuck pig if they had had to pay the proper price for a quality product. For years successive governments have demanded a cheap food policy, at the expense of quality. This has been exacerbated by the supermarket domination of the supply chain. Yes there were abuses, but the policy of dismantling the infrastructure of locally produced, quality food is now backfiring. And as for those who suggest that the farming community is making fat profits I say "get real" - go an see any farming community and see not only how in crisis they are but also how this knocks onto the large areas of the rural community - something our city based politicians have missed.
In 1981 there was an outbreak of FMD in the UK, it was quickly arrested and no more has been heard of it till now, 20 years later. As informed by "Tom,UK" these outbreaks can occur in the cleanest of places. What needs to be determined is exactly how virulent this particular strain is.
But one thing is for sure about all this, like BSE sheer panic will be spread from those
least qualified on the issues, the media and politicians.
This, I'm afraid, has been a tragedy in waiting. This government, as usual, cannot produce balanced and controlled legislation. On the one hand, over-regulation has lead to the demise of the vast majority of the smaller local abattoirs. This has made farmers send animals vast distances across the country for slaughter. Any outbreak of this sort therefore has the potential to spread nation wide very quickly. Under regulation and complete incompetence from MAFF in not supporting Trading Standards officers in taking the farm where this originated from to court months ago for highly suspect practices.
I am appalled at the distances that animals have to travel, simply as a commodity to earn money. Why are dealers allowed to transport animals from Cumbria to Devon to sell on? Also why are animals transported from Northumberland to Essex for slaughter? Have we no compassion at all? I accept that animals have to be slaughtered (let's hope humanely) but to transport animals over these long distances is unacceptable. I am seriously considering giving up meat. The thought of the suffering of these poor animals appals me.
I can't understand why it's automatically assumed that the farmers deserve compensation. Can't
they insure themselves against occupational hazards like this, or vaccinate their livestock?
They showed how much they care about the health of the general public when they kept
insisting that BSE wasn't a problem and now they want our handouts!
If we only used meat that was from the UK/EU in all products (i.e. processed food like meat pies) then farming in this country would be in good shape. The fact that imported meat from countries (as now South Africa and Asia) that have no food control and more importantly no animal care controls cripples our market. Consumers in general have no idea that they are eating meat from such places - but ask them if there should be pigs in crates or if we should use growth hormones and they will say no but they are eating this type of food without knowing it.
John B, UK
Like Tony Wild, UK, I rather suspect that intensive methods might have something to do with it, but it also seems intuitively obvious that transporting live animals over long distances is bad for the animals, an unnecessary waste of fuel and other transport resources and a big risk in terms of disease spread. If animals are reared in all countries, why do live ones have to cross borders?
Supermarket tells farmer what price to sell at. Farmer produces at least cost within Government guidelines. Supermarket sells inferior products labelled as 'prime' and 'best'. Pig get Foot and Mouth. Government says very little. Consumer sounds surprised!
For once, the Government has got the right idea. Unfortunately, as in '67, it looks like the disease has moved too fast.
It is interesting to note the effect intensive farming has had on this debate: On the one hand, pigs in barns will speed the transmission of the disease within a herd. On the other hand, it's easier to sterilise a barn than a field and a barn will shelter animals from the airborne disease.
One fact I must concede is the loss of many local, smaller abattoirs. Unfortunately, whilst the Tories must take some of the blame, Labour and the EU are also equally culpable. This is not a party political problem.
26 Feb 01 | UK
Fires burn but disease spreads
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