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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 16:03 GMT
Foot-and-mouth: Out of control?

An Irish Government minister has launched a bitter attack on the UK's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis - describing it as a "scandal".

Officials in London are insisting that the disease is under control, despite the confirmation of 25 new cases on Sunday - the biggest daily rise since the crisis began.

Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo said the situation was approaching a "national emergency". Mr Yeo said "drastic" preventative measures in France and the Irish Republic had protected both countries from an outbreak.

Is the government doing enough to control the spread of the disease? Are we facing a "national emergency" over foot-and-mouth? HAVE YOUR SAY


We are at risk from economic or political ransom from other countries

Louise, UK
The unbelievable attitude of people to this crisis and the farmers blight makes me angry and disappointed. Even farming families are walking around disinfected straw because "they don't want the smell in their car". Farmers aren't whining or layabouts, they have one of the longest working days in the world. The opinions of the ill informed never fail to amaze me! People don't commit suicide if they can see a way out and at least one farmer has already done so. How about a little co-operation and sympathy from an essential industry. All food is not made magically by supermarkets. If we are unable to produce our own food we are at risk from economic or political ransom from other countries.
Louise, UK

I would like to know why the Government is taking such a big step with today's cull of healthy animals when basic preventative procedures are being ignored at the UK's borders. I have heard from several people travelling that they just get asked if they have meat products, they are not searched or checked. There are also no disinfectant mats at the airports although when one traveller went to Dublin, there were disinfectant mats everywhere.
Lisa, Netherlands

Farmers are not greedy industrialists only worried about profits and earnings. If they were they would have left farming years ago and got a job that pays. They are people who care about animals, they are following their vocation and believe it or not know about looking after animals. They know that an animal that isn't looked after properly will eventually die. It will therefore not make the farmer any money and as they are not running charities this isn't really what they want.
Joe, England

Now is the time to move to organic farming and we can start by subsidising the affected farmers only if they move in this direction. This will push the price up but will hopefully provide new direction for the country
Duncan Brown, UK

I am now living in America. When I talk to my Dad, we both agree that this is another embarrassing event for England. What with Mad Cow disease, trains crashing, foot-and-mouth - what is next? My Dad has told me that he doesn't want to live in England anymore. How many other people feel like this?
Martin, USA


I have no sympathy for the farmers whatsoever

Dave Allen, London, UK
I have no sympathy for the farmers whatsoever. They have had opportunities to insure against these things, yet few do. They are victims of their own bad practices. Perhaps my point of view would change when they actually start working for a living instead of scrounging for a living.
Dave Allen, London, UK

I am sorry to say this but I now feel embarrassed to admit I am British. It would now appear that the foot-and-mouth disaster in the UK has directly affected the export of meat from all EU member states to 90 countries around the world who have imposed import bans. These poor European farmers must now feel hatred towards British farmers for their involvement in propagating F&M and BSE. Expect huge demos in Brussels soon!
Paul, UK

If the Government is going to compensate farming and other industries affected by this outbreak they should put a tax on meat to recoup the cost. This would then better reflect the true cost. If they don't then the compensation will just be yet another subsidy to Britain's most subsidised industry.
Mark, UK

I cannot understand why our Government can find the necessary funds when there is a disaster abroad but it will take approximately two weeks for them to authorise payments to our own farmers during this foot and mouth crisis.
Joyce, England

Voting is not a compulsory activity. However the census is, and the thought of armies of people calling on EVERY property throughout the land is not in line with minimising travel within country areas. Maybe the census should also be postponed to prevent further mass movement of people and vehicles.
P.N. Brandram Jones, UK

We live in Cumbria, and are surrounded by cases of F+M. How can the Government say that they have the outbreak under control? It is quite obvious that Nick Brown has not got a clue and if he believes that it is under control, then he should come to Cumbria and see how "controlled" the disease is. And as for calling an election, that is totally preposterous. The LabourGgovernment are all fools and if they think that killing 500,000 sheep is part of the answer to their problems then maybe they need to reconsider there position as the leaders of the country.
Three worried Cumbrians, Cumbria, UK


What we are witnessing now are the consequences of reckless and shortsighted consumer demands

Simon, UK
What we are witnessing now are the consequences of reckless and shortsighted consumer demands that have gone unchecked over many years. The disease will pass. However, I fear consumer attitudes towards the real cost of food will remain unchanged for years to come and we will see a repetition of a similar event in the future.
Simon, UK

The comments of the Irish government minister labelling Britain as the "leper of Europe" are an absolute disgrace. The British Government has (for once) taken action as soon as possible to limit the spread of this devastating disease both in the UK and to Europe. It is easy for the minister to criticise now with hindsight. This virus is incredibly infectious and is currently affecting the lives of many people throughout the EU. Rather than making childish comments and trying to point blame, surely it is in all interests to fight this disease together.
Gareth, USA

Has anyone tried to trace where the disease first came from? It looks very likely that it came from another country. Isn't it time the UK imposed similar restrictions on the import of food as the US and Australia have had for many years?
Bob, UK

Yes, Sweden has good meat production, no doubt far better than the rest of Europe. But there are also many vegetarians here per percentageof the population. I myself have always eaten meat, but if this slaughter continues I may be forced to become vegetarian myself.
Pete, Sweden


I think we should look to Sweden for our long-term response to this problem

Andy Keen, Britain
I think we should look to Sweden for our long-term response to this problem. The Government there refused to allow the barbaric practice of intensive meat farming carried out by the rest of Europe. Initially the farmers were angry. Now, they are doing very well, because their meat is good quality, their stocks disease-free, and they are getting a very good price for their product.
Andy Keen, Britain

Weeks into the crisis and it seems as though every day we find a greater number of outbreaks than the day before. If animal movements have been halted, how can this be? I would like to see statistics on just how many sites were visited each day since the scare began; I suspect that the authorities have not moved as swiftly or as thoroughly as they might have done and the increasing numbers are evidence of them playing 'catch-up'.
Paul I, UK

One thing that does not help is pretentious reporters zooming up and down England visiting farm land
Steve, UK

Once this crisis is past the Government should establish a new framework of regulation, tax, and subsidy which ensures that most animals are grown and slaughtered in the same area, and which restricts cheap foreign imports. Britain should neither be importing nor exporting large quantities of food.
Malcolm, UK


I think that the Government has done what it can to try and control the epidemic

Rodger Edwards, UK
I think that the Government has done what it can to try and control the epidemic. Unfortunately, there is no effective way of controlling a highly infectious disease that can be spread by the wind. I will judge the Government not on the basis of its control measures, but on how it tries to put the rural economy to rights AFTER the epidemic is over.
Rodger Edwards, UK

How can there be a meat shortage when so many healthy animals are being killed as a precautionary measure? Why can't the meat from these animals be sold at the supermarkets - especially if there's no risk to humans even if the meat was infected?
Pam, UK

I do not think that either the UK or any other European country was ever going to be able to estimate the real danger of the foot and mouth epidemic. Furthermore the measures which were supposed to be taken were poor.
Mert Vuraldi, Germany

So now the disease has spread to France. This is damaging our reputation abroad and our export markets for years to come. That's apart from the damage to the tourism industry. When will this champagne socialist Government understand what they are dealing with and stop all race meetings, cancel major sports fixtures, get the army into the farms to destroy the carcasses and TAKE THIS OUTBREAK SERIOUSLY? This is one situation where their spin-doctors can't help. It has shown just how immature and amateur our Government really is.
K. Sadler, UK


The Government has absolutely no idea - it's a joke

Carey, England
The Government has absolutely no idea - it's a joke. When will they wake up and realise what they have done to our country? Please, please let them see sense and give a large proportion of our taxes to the poor farmers who have had a bad enough time as it is.
Carey, England

Last night (Monday 13th's) BBC 10pm news broadcast was one of the most shocking, thought provoking and best pieces of reporting I have ever seen. I hope the Government have seen it - they should be compelled to. The lack of action to help farmers is disgraceful, especially when you consider how they pandered to the lorry drivers who held Britain to ransom last year. I don't think they realise how much sympathy there is around the country for the terrible plight of farmers at the moment - farmers and their families deserve more than this.
Gill, UK

So now the army may be called in to help with the slaughtering. Let's hope these untrained, one-time slaughtermen accidentally hit a few politicians, farmers, hauliers and anyone else who has helped cause this mess all in the name of money.
MN, UK/ Germany

I live in the Yorkshire Dales, and it is amazing to read the comments of uneducated people who equate farming with huge factory farms in the South. Up here it is not like that. In fact, it is quite normal for a farmer to be able to identify every individual animal on his farm. This is true love for the animals. They are now going through the worst times ever for them and the British public must support them. The huge farms will survive this onslaught, the small ones may not...
Joel, England


Surely they are risking spreading the disease as much as anyone else?

David Etheridge, England
If the general public are being restricted on access to the countryside, how is it that golfers can go through farmland, country lanes, next to farms etc with no restrictions? Surely they are risking spreading the disease as much as anyone else?
David Etheridge, England

Ever thought about turning to real agriculture, i.e. natural products in their natural environment; animals with enough space to live and to enjoy life, all with respect to that gift we hardly seem worthy to receive: nature.
Johan De Smet, Belgium

MAFF and the farming industry have taken a deliberate decision not to vaccinate stock against FMD, and thereby accept the risk of periodic outbreaks of disease. That risk has now materialised, but it is the taxpayers of Britain who will be expected to bear the cost of controlling the problem and paying compensation. Anyone else in the UK who takes a commercial risk bears the consequences. Not so the farming community, who expect the rest of the country to compensate them for the risks they have taken. Would the rural communities accept the concept of compensating City banks or manufacturers if they take commercial risks and lose money? The scandal is not only that the situation is out of control, it is that a national crisis has arisen through the folly of a small section of the population.
Alan Brooke, UK

If the UK Government had banned imports of meat from countries with Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) within 48 hours, as other EU states did, and not left it for three months, perhaps this virus which is destroying the very souls of our countryside, may not have happened.
Nyree Sherwin, UK


I cannot avoid concluding that once again Britain is the home of disease thanks to our permanently whinging farmers

A C, UK
Though the outbreak and the consequences of Foot and Mouth are tragic, I cannot avoid concluding that once again Britain is the home of disease thanks to our permanently whinging farmers. I have little or no sympathy for the industry that has no bottom to its continual moaning, demands for more and more money and compensation for absolutely every small set back. There is never enough for our farmers. It is thanks to the cattle farmers of the UK and their greater care for earning a buck in the 1980's than the then probable risks to public health, that the world is blighted with BSE.
A C, UK

I just hope we can all learn from this catastrophe, and see the results of our greed for cheap meat, and take a serious look at the way we eat, farm and slaughter the 850 million animals we consume each year. As someone mentioned about the source perhaps this useless governments wimpy attitude to immigrants may have something to do with it.
Peter, UK

I really hope that the government is doing more and more everyday to slow down the disease! My agriculture class had and assignment to research the disease and how it will affect our economy. So based on that alone I think that the government of the UK had better be doing some drastic measures to stop the spread of FMD before it turns into a national crisis!
Case, United States

UK should kill every animal infected or suspected to be. France and Irish Republic are taking the right decisions in handling this terrible disease. It's terrible to see farmers loosing their animals, but it's necessary for the Europe's safety.
Marcelo Gallo, Argentina


I feel that your government is doing the right thing by informing the world of this situation so that other countries can take necessary precautions to protect themselves

Terry Guild, USA
As an American, I can say that we are warily watching the situation in the UK in regards to the hoof and mouth disease outbreak. I feel that your government is doing the right thing by informing the world of this situation so that other countries can take necessary precautions to protect themselves.
I imagine that as far as the tourist sector goes, perception is everything, and as long as potential tourists feel that the UK government is taking prudent steps to quash the spread of the hoof and mouth outbreak, tourism in Britain should not be negatively impacted.
Terry Guild, USA

When will you all wake up? The way the animals are being burnt off is actually spreading the virus on the winds. Let me explain these fires are maybe 10' high with the dead animals at the top. The fire is started at the bottom a long way from the dead beast. Before the heat is enough to incinerate the beast the slightly hot air rises picks up the spores and takes them away. When is the Government going to see this?
Jason Lawrence, England

The British government has moved too slowly and too ineffectively. Here in Ireland we have 650 herds restricted based on suspected or possible contact with ONE confirmed case in Armagh. At the same time in the UK there are ONLY 133 restricted herds and currently 135 positive cases, I think that says all there needs to be said about the level of follow up and the rapid spread of foot and mouth in the UK. For those that think that the slaughter is unnecessary, just remember that the virus mutates very easily.
Kate, Ireland

UK rural tourist industry =12 billion pounds a year. UK meat exports (the only thing at risk from Britain losing it's F&M-free status) = 1.2 billion pounds a year. So why is the former being sacrificed for the benefit of the latter? In fact why are MAFF running the show... surely this is a matter for a department concerned with the WHOLE of the British economy such as the DTI, who could hopefully take a more balanced view than MAFF's blinkered approach.
Tim Day, UK

why are there no disinfectant mats etc at all entrance/exits to the Dartmoor area if all are worried about the spread of foot and mouth to the population of said moors?
Mrs L Fredericks, England


I don't think anyone, other than Nick Brown, believes the disease is "under control"

Yvonne Ravenhall, Portugal
I don't think anyone, other than Nick Brown, believes the disease is "under control". It has been 30-odd years since the last serious outbreak. It's likely that many farmers (perhaps even vets), now in there 40s, will never have seen the symptoms and may not even be aware of how easily the disease spreads.
This government hasn't shown itself any better at dealing with a farming crisis than was the last government. Could a combination of ignorance and plans for a Spring general election have led this government to initially down-play the impact of foot-and-mouth?
Yvonne Ravenhall, Portugal

I guess it depends on what is meant by 'out of control'. I am not sure that this has any real meaning given that this is an economic problem. A judgement shall need to be made soon whether the continued slowdown of the British Tourism industry and haulier business for instance, is being harmed more by the pursuit of a shoot to kill policy rather than an alternative.
We should now be informed of the break even point (and I suspect that we have already passed this point). But do I really believe that MAFF would release such damming and incriminating information- of course not! Onwards we go, lemmings..
Andrew, UK


It's time we saw the government taking a broader view of this than just the agricultural aspects

Mark Scott, UK
It's time we saw the government taking a broader view of this than just the agricultural aspects. It's now clear that other sectors including most notably tourism are being significantly affected by this outbreak.
The early hopes that the disease could be contained to a few areas are rapidly looking like they were unjustified, so someone with broader authority than Nick Brown has needs to take a big decision, and quickly.
Mark Scott, UK

Given that this virus is as bad as the authorities and media says, then there should be no "if's or buts". We should be stopping all Horse racing, all sporting events (Rugby, Soccer) in infected regions (where people travel from far and wide to attend, and risk contaminating other areas when they head home). All imports of suspect animals and meat should be stopped until we get this virus nailed.
Phil W, UK

My understanding is that the next 2 weeks will tell us how "under control" the disease is, on the grounds that the current spread is expected, given that the countermeasures were never intended to bring the spread to an immediate halt, and it was accepted that enough virus particles had escaped to give the present coverage. If in the next fortnight we don't see the spread of the disease starting to slow down and stop, THEN we will know how effective the precautions have been. Until then, hysterical reactions and accusations of "agricultural disease spin" are unhelpful and pointless.
John Park, England

So, a disease that people can't catch, that isn't fatal to 98% of animals, that doesn't even render the animals unfit to eat or unable to produce milk is out of control? We have to slaughter thousands of animals and threaten to shut down the tourism industry to stop it. What for? So farmers don't lose their export market. The only thing that is out of control is our reaction to it.
Toby Barrett, UK


Initially, I thought that it might have been caught in time, but it looks now as if it was a case of too little, too late

Brian W, UK
Initially, I thought that it might have been caught in time, but it looks now as if it was a case of too little, too late. Certainly, given the wide geographical spread of this outbreak, some searching questions are going to have to be asked about import controls on livestock and meat products, the advisability of long-distance movements and whether a quarantine period should be required before animals from outside an area are allowed to mix with the existing stock.
Brian W, UK

How can Nick Brown claim the situation is under control, and then talk about killing half a million sheep as a precaution? And surely if such a dramatic step is to be taken, other much less dramatic precautionary steps (i.e. stopping horseracing) should also be taken.
Karen, UK

The governments handling of this disease has been embarrassingly poor. Their arrogance and ignorance has led to a catastrophe, and it seems they haven't admitted to the true extent of the problem. Their concern for political agendas has ruined an industry, and the lives of many farmers. I don't see how they can allow large sporting event like horse racing to go on - its unbelievable.
Liana Romaniuk, UK


What do we do if we reach the point where containment by movement bans and slaughter has definitely failed?

Malcolm McMahon, UK
I don't think foot-and-mouth is under control but, on the other hand, I don't blame the Government's response. By the time the first case was discovered it was probably already too late for effective containment. The question is, what do we do if we reach the point where containment by movement bans and slaughter has definitely failed? I understand why they don't talk about it but I really hope that, behind the scenes, someone is working on plan B.
Malcolm McMahon, UK

It is hard to see how anybody can regard this fiasco as being even vaguely under control let along "totally under control". As is the norm for this pathetic Government, everything looks fine from their Westminster offices. If they were to actually go out and look at the nasty real world then perhaps they would realise that large sections of the rural community are under siege by this ever-worsening farce.
John B, UK

Yes, this is a national emergency. The Government can't spin their way out of this one.
Neil, UK


Politicians are renowned for their ability to twist facts beyond recognition

Mike, England
Politicians are renowned for their ability to twist facts beyond recognition and make statistics mean absolutely anything. Very few will believe the foot-and-mouth epidemic is actually under control until it has been eradicated. Nick Brown's early moves seemed good, but MAFF has been overwhelmed and is totally incapable of accepting that. Until they do, I fear we will see more cases.
Mike, England

From the comments of the Government Chief Vet it would appear that the policy of containment will be more difficult than ministers first thought. The problem is the number of journeys and the distances involved in the movement of animals around the UK. In the 60's outbreak, containment was easier because animals were slaughtered locally and therefore there was no chance of them travelling the length and breadth of this country or Europe.
Brian, UK

Only a politician could possibly try and convince us that a rise in the number of FMD cases constitutes being in control.
Anne, UK

Is the source of the outbreak being investigated? Several people have mentioned imported meat as the source. Where is it coming from and why has it not been stopped? It could be to blame for the continued spread of the disease.
Dominic, UK

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