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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Mass slaughter: A step too far?

Up to a million healthy animals may be killed under a mass slaughter programme designed to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease from the worst affected areas of the UK.

The government's chief vet says if the cull is not carried out there is a grave danger the disease will "spill back" into the rest of the country.

But farmers in Cumbria are threatening to resist, and lobby group Farmers for Action has declared "all-out war", seeking a judicial review over the government's handling of the crisis.

Is the mass slaughter really necessary? Or is it the only solution to a terrible problem?

This Talking Point is now closed. Your reaction:

Most animals that get foot-and-mouth recover, they can be inoculated to prevent them from getting it in the first place and their meat does not harm humans. Therefore, the only reason left for this mass killing and burning is that the UK is ruled by Europe - they are delighted to see a competitor in the meat market suffer. Inoculate and let the farmers, and indeed the rest of us, get on with our lives. You can bet that as it spreads in Euroland, they will very quickly inoculate and probably also sell the meat whilst we still wonder if action will affect an election or two. Get a grip, Tony...
Ian Lauder, England

I agree with Roxanne, USA. I think the Government would be happy to see the farming land changed to building sites! Do we need to export anyway? Why can we not be responsible for supplying our own meat in a humane way without intensive farming - this would only work if supermarkets were made to play fair with the farmers. With the vets and inspectors free to spend time on our own livestock, we could be certain our meat would in the future be safe.
Pauline, Wales

How many more hundreds of thousands of animals will have to be slaughtered before the government will see sense and allow a vaccination programme? And will there be any farmers left in business at the end of it all? If not what will happen to the countryside? I fully agree with Mary, UK, that farmers are custodians of the countryside. If it wasn't grazed, much of the land would be overrun with bracken and gorse, and I fear that the character of the countryside would change with a negative impact on tourism.

Finally, I would ask Jim McDermott, USA, not to lay too much blame for pollution of the countryside at the feet of our farmers. You have only to look at the disgusting amount of litter along our roadsides and in the hedgerows to realise that the real polluters of the countryside are all those ignorant members of the general public who care nothing for the simple pleasures afforded by the countryside and who therefore have little interest in maintaining its unspoilt beauty!
Fiona Dods, UK/USA

How much foot-and-mouth is being carried by insects, birds and rats?

Sara Lovell, UK
The mass slaughter of healthy animals is definitely a step too far. A programme of vaccination, as adopted by the Dutch, to act as a firebreak to stop the immediate spread would be better. Also, how much foot and mouth is being carried by insects, birds and rats, that must be finding the dead bodies of contaminated animals as yet unburned some sort of Christmas feast? What will Maff decide to slaughter then?
Sara Lovell, UK

Leaving the morals aside for a moment - if a shopkeeper loses his shop to a fire, his insurance should pay for the damage and reinstate his business as it was before the fire. Don't the farmers have insurance?
Wendy, UK

The slaughter of animals as a means of limiting foot-and-mouth is a mockery. Questions should be vigorously asked as to why the government is STILL allowing imports of meat both from Europe and other parts of the world that contain banned substances and are finding their way into the food chain. British farmers have had to jump through hoops to become a "disease free" country, which supposedly gives us a better trading position. With whom can we trade when we are constantly being banned from export by other countries which pursue a protectionist policy whilst we have a government that has NO LOYALTY or COMMITMENT whatsoever.
M.A. Bickell, England

If the only way to eradicate this disease is through slaughter, then we must slaughter. If this crisis continues, we, along with the press and the news reporters, will blame MAFF, the Prime Minister and any one else for not being firm enough. I - along with the majority of farmers - agree with the need to create "firewalls" to reduce this disease.
Richard Hood, England

If we don't put ourselves first, no one else will

Karin Oughton, UK
With the latest comments from the government vets stating that it will be late autumn before the last case of foot-and-mouth is under control, one seriously needs to ask, will there be any animals left to cull? With thousands of animals being culled every week, will we have a farming industry left? Or will we be paying a fortune to "European partners" who have imposed selfish unilateral bans on the UK farming industry every time there is any hint of an excuse (BSE, foot-and-mouth, swine fever etc) despite the fact it is already rampant in their own country.

I'm tired of United Kingdom plc rolling over and saying "Oh, beat me". When do we take measures for ourselves, to benefit us - not to pander to other countrie wants and dislikes, but to support and benefit our nation, our farmers, our industry, even if it is to the detriment of another nation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Labour or anti-Conservative, or even pro/anti Europe - I'd say I'm pro-UK. After all, if we don't put ourselves first, no one else will...
Karin Oughton, UK

When humans become chronically ill, as with aids or cancer - something far more deadly than foot-and-mouth - our medical systems swing into action to keep them living as long as possible. I believe we must do the same for other sentient creatures. I'm a vegetarian and am opposed to killing as a way to "grow" our economies.
Shloime Perel, Montreal, Canada

At least the Government is more open about foot-and-mouth - a lot better than the previous Administration, which denied any danger, or existence of BSE.
Richard Hood, Hertfordshire, England

Why on earth didn't we follow the same path as the Dutch and vaccinate to hold the disease at bay? Will this Government ever learn? I purposely won't vote at all at any election so as to show my support to those who can't get there or don't want to get there. I think we should run a boycott on polling stations at election time!
Carey, England

Place animal welfare before the politics

PCB, Norway
UK and the Brits should be aware of their responsibility to EU as a whole. Continue with the slaughter; that is the only thing which will, eventually, break the cycle of the foot-and-mouth disease. The worst thing you could possibly do is to start a mass vaccination program. And to the Government, to even talk about election is clearly pointing out that you have no idea what you are fighting. Place animal welfare before the politics.
PCB, Norway

After reading all the comments there are only two which make any sense to me and those are from Paul, Taiwan and Jackie, UK. If a vegan diet were adopted none of this would be happening. It's disgusting, cruel and unnecessary for anyone in this day and age to consume meat or be involved in intensive livestock farming and live distribution which is barbaric. There are more than enough alternatives, there is no excuse anymore to not even try them. We do not need to kill/eat or wear animals to survive and would be far healthier. My conscience is clear, I can sleep at night knowing I have not contributed to what is an unnecessary and disgusting institution. I have no sympathy for the farmers, only the poor defenceless animals which are being treated appallingly. I find it highly offensive and upsetting every time I turn on the television to see the images of dead, burning animals. The human population is it's own worst enemy.
Carrie, UK

It seems to me that the cure is far more painful than the cost of simply living with the disease (especially given that vaccination could prevent a lot of animals from suffering). Why not just let it spread? Forget about chasing foot-and-mouth-free status - it's not worth the price.
Tim Day, Bristol, UK

I think times have changed since the present slaughter policy was first instigated. The greater movement of livestock and people around the country mean this is no longer effective. Coupled with the present greater stocking densities today it is an ineffective, costly and inhumane approach. The Government has lost the plot. The disease is out of control. They must look to vaccination before they bankrupt every rural business(not just agricultural) and destroy valuable genetic material as whole herds of pedigree livestock and rare breeds are threatened with slaughter. The Government policy is now a more dangerous threat to the economy of the British countryside than the foot-and-mouth disease itself!
Miranda MacDonald, Scotland

Mass slaughter of clean animals is not necessary, I believe the British Government is taking orders from Europe(EC) and not listening to the farmers or the scientists. Has any of the Government seen the situation fist hand. When all this is over and it's time to buy new stock Britain should look to countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada for clean animals,. Not animals form Europe or Third World countries.
J Venables, Canada

As the number of foot and mouth disease infected premises is steadily growing, it is becoming more and more apparent that the slaughter policy is ineffective in controlling this outbreak. I applaud Mr Kindsley on his stance promoting vaccination rather than mass slaughter. It is not too late to adopt a route of mass vaccination of cloven hoofed animals in Britain. The vaccines are available and so are tests to identify whether an animal is carrying the disease or has built up antibodies in response to the vaccine. I also find it difficult to comprehend that so many healthy animals are being put to "pre-emptive slaughter" while the country is importing meat from areas where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic. After mass vaccination, and only then, can we hope for a resumption of some kind of normality in rural life. Only then will it be safe to open up the countryside again and give the much-needed boost to rural businesses and the tourist trade. At the moment, nowhere in Britain, and sadly beyond is "safe".
Sabine, England

Why don't we ring vaccinate around the outbreaks to act as a "firebreak" and then in the longer term slaughter the vaccinated animals through abattoirs. This could be done rapidly reducing the bottlenecks created by the on farm slaughter and disposal.
Gethin Maddocks, England

Last Sunday's "Observer" carried a front page article which reported that prosecutions were pending against a number of farmers, mainly, but not exclusively in Cumbria. Apparently large numbers of animals had been moved, illegally, and often at night. Some farmers had even deliberately infected their animals in order to claim compensation. Furthermore, it seems that the feeding of untreated pig swill (again illegal) was responsible for the outbreak, in the first place. The economic impact of this industry's actions is being felt in much greater measure and by more economically important industries than farming. Yet we are invited to feel sorry for farmers and to blame the Government for their plight. I cannot understand why the guilt of the industry has not had more of an airing than it has.
Herbert Miles, UK

Raising livestock is a very inefficient way to produce protein from farmland. It won't necessarily be a bad thing if the industry becomes extinct unless you work in it of course. However, I don't remember the Tories being quite as concerned about coal miners when their industry ceased to be viable.
Mark, UK

I don't understand how vaccination is effective at preventing the spread of the virus if vaccinated animals can still be carriers. Can someone explain please?
Luke Wilson, UK

I find it sickening and despicable that farmers would do this to an otherwise healthy flock of sheep

Karen Shepherd, England
800 sheep are being culled in my home county of Bedfordshire today as a precaution. I find it sickening and despicable that farmers would do this to an otherwise healthy flock of sheep. It is an act of brutality that is unnecessary, and a shock to our county. As mainly an arable farming area, the disease should not spread as widely if at all in this area.
Karen Shepherd, England

I am a vet in Kenya where FMD is quite common. I think the reaction by the UK authorities to cull all animals in contact with infected ones is exaggerated. Quarantine, vaccination and disinfection are quite adequate in stopping the spread of this disease. However, the above reaction is quite in line with British policy of following what the Americans have done or will do. Faced with a similar situation and a big budget suplus in early 1970's, they engaged their armed forces who went on a shooting binge.
Francis Kuria, Kenya

Maybe this will not be a surprise to those of you in the UK, but I was horrified last night here in the US to hear an editorial by David Manasian of The Economist on our National Public Radio. He said that since farming makes up such a small percentage of the GDP of England, and even less in the US, that it's time to stop supporting farmers. He said that it only makes sense to have the "poorer countries" of the world become the food-producers, and that no modern, industrialised nation needed to have its own farms anymore.
Caryn, USA

The disease causes very painful lesions on the feet, mouth, udder of affected animals. Many can hardly walk or eat, many young animals DIE (up to 95% of lambs), many more will be left infertile or without milk. It is a distressing disease to the animals and those who see them. The vaccines are not 100% effective and vaccinated animals can carry the disease and infect other animals. Culling gives us the opportunity to wipe the disease out, vaccination does not.
Sharon Redrobe, Veterinary Officer, Bristol Zoo Gardens, UK

In the US, Australia and NZ you have to declare any food you bring into the country

Ed, UK
Andrew Lawes has got a point. Other countries are far stricter than the UK re border controls. We have some of the busiest airports in the world in Heathrow and Gatwick, with flights from all over the globe, yet anyone can bring in any foodstuffs they like. In the US, Australia and NZ you have to declare any food you bring into the country or risk having it thrown away by customs when you arrive (even if it is processed/ packaged). Australia even has inter-state border controls. Maybe we should adopt stricter policies to avoid this spreading in the future. Seems to work in other countries!
Ed, UK

I was wondering if the Government have considered using planes to spread detergent over foot and mouth hotspots, such as roads that go through infected areas and over farms that have been diagnosed with the disease. This I am sure would help prevent it spreading.
Leigh Williams, Wales

Every now and then, our neighbours in Taiwan have an outbreak of F&M. (They are big exporters of pork to mainland China). And they do exactly what the Brits are now doing. The cull can be traumatic for those forced to load their cattle onto bonfires, but it's an extremely infectious disease that can easily be spread to other countries. Half measures only make the problem worse.
Mark McFarland, Hong Kong

When influenza strikes the populace we don't dig trenches , slaughter the population then dump them on funeral pyres , so why do we treat our animals in such a way. Just inoculate them and have done with it. From what I have discovered, it was in the 1940's that the UK adopted the mass slaughter approach then convinced Europe to adopt the same policy. Before then, farmers just lived with foot-and-mouth. The animals got sick , then they got better. I feel that I have woken up in some medieval time when mumbo-jumbo was the science of the day.
Mike Bilson, UK

They are meant to represent the needs of the people of Great Britain plc

J Cross, UK
I only have one this to say. Politicians who say that elections should go ahead because it will send the wrong signals to the rest of the world if we don't, need to consider who sent them to Parliament, and why they are supposed to be there! They are meant to represent the needs of the people of Great Britain plc, and not their own selfish desires for world recognition. Stop thinking about the rest of the world's opinion (including Europe!) of us. Let's get foot-and-mouth sorted out, in the best possible way, for the people of Great Britain. If that means culling so-be-it, but if it means waiting for the disease to run its course, then Parliament should be bringing in the army to assist and providing adequate compensation for all in the countryside.
J Cross, UK

This current situation only puts into the limelight what is going on all the time - the unnecessary mass slaughter of animals. Are people aware that 25% of the world's land surface is given over to grazing more than 1.25 billion cattle? That nearly one billion people are undernourished or starving when the world produces twice enough food to feed its population of 6 billion? And that one-third of the grain we grow is fed to farm animals? If one looks in any real depth into nutrition, it will be realised that we do not need animal products to survive. Indeed, to remove animal products from one's diet often improves health if you take on a sensible, healthy vegan diet. People have overcome cancer and other illnesses from omitting animal products from their diets.

When you read any literature or articles saying how important animal protein is and the calcium in your milk, take a thought at who is propagating this literature. The meat and dairy industry involves a lot of money and in a short-sighted way it is not of the Governement's and related institutions' interests to speak much of the dangers of eating meat and dairy. Take a thought at who it really benefits if you eat meat and drink milk. If it's healthier to eat animal-free, why should any animals have to be slaughtered, whether they have foot-and-mouth disease or not?
Jackie, UK

I can't believe the Government's strategy - how on earth will a mass cull stop the problem? The only way to eradicate the disease that way is to kill every animal on the land, including humans! I don't like the sound of that plan! I firmly believe there is a hidden European export agenda going on behind the scenes, which I find most disturbing. My heart goes out to the farmers and people of the land - I feel really ashamed at how ignorant I personally am as a "city slicker". Were I a farmer, I'd probably obtain some vaccine off the black market, inoculate my animals and barricade my farm from any intruders, MAFF or otherwise.
Liana Romaniuk, UK

If healthy sheep are culled, what are they going to do with all the healthy wild birds that sit on the sheep's backs then could fly off and infect more healthy animals in the UK and abroad when they migrate?
Shirley, UK

One thing is rapidly becoming clear as the costs of foot-and-mouth are estimated at between 3 and 50 billion is that we can no longer afford a farming industry in this country. On top of 20 billion for BSE it is clear that the industry is very bad value for money. Farmers have been living too high on the hog for too long and have become complacent, greedy and rebellious. The tail must not be allowed to wag the dog any longer.
Stephen Doyle, Scotland

Apparently MAFF enquired about timber supplies for incineration purposes two weeks before the first case was public knowledge - now try and tell me there isn't something very fishy going on!
Phil, Devon, England

What is the real problem here? The economic hardships to the industries such as tourism and farming or the large number of deaths of animals? With the stock market going down the tubes, recession of the global economy in the pipes, hey look, some burnt cows. Always the truckers, the miners, the farmers, the fishermen, the local grocers, the manufacturers, the teachers, the hospital staff, etc etc, isn't the capitalistic world such a harsh place for everyone. And the dead animals? They were walking dead anyway, we just didn't get to eat their dead carcasses.
J Lee, UK

This country has just been so incompetent in dealing with this whole affair. France detected their first case and took rapid action in trying to stop the disease from spreading and it looks as though they have succeeded. I don't think it would have been different under a Tory government as the same veterinary advisers would have dealt with the problem as now!
Thomas Brayford, England

I am 16 and live on a dairy farm. I'm terrified that, if a mass cull goes ahead, there will be nothing left. Who will want to visit a barren landscape? Why can't Tony Blair come out and see the situation for himself instead of worrying about his elections?
Leah F, Devon, England.

Paul Webster of the UK seems to be confused. Australia and New Zealand have NEVER had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth and it's precisely because of our border controls and bio-security measures that we remain free of the disease. Possibly something other countries could learn during this time of crisis for both the UK and parts of Europe.
Andrew Lawes, New Zealand

This would place her in a very uncomfortable position

Edward James, UK
Given talk about Labour's apparent reluctance to consider postponing a 3rd May General Election, I wonder if such behaviour puts the Queen in a difficult position? Mr Blair needs to seek permission from Her Majesty for a dissolution of Parliament. Given the Queen's apparent concerns about foot-and-mouth and the implications for racing, how can she calmly grant such an act requested by the Prime Minister? This would place her in a very uncomfortable position. Perhaps she may even be forced to use the Royal Prerogative to 'advise' Mr Blair to reconsider his request?
Edward James, UK

I have heard it authoritatively stated that homeopathy can treat and prevent foot-and-mouth disease very effectively. Is anybody trying it? Probably not.
Joe Aston, Ireland

It is downright cruel. The animals were raised for human consumption, now they are being slaughtered for human protection (to prevent the disease from spreading). All in all, it is entirely a result of excessive greed.
Kalyanee Padhye, India

Surely with global trade this won't be the last epidemic of FMD. We must vaccinate or we'll lose every domestic and wild animal in the country.
Maureen Luchini, UK

I would like to reply to a comment made by Mary Woods, concerning the tourist industry and lack of compensation for loss of business during the foot-and-mouth crisis. Could I point out that when this is over the businesses will be up and running again but for the farmers it will take a lot longer to even start to rebuild the damage that has been done. These are farmers whose whole livelihoods are going up in smoke and it's going to take a lot more than a bit of compensation to put it right again.
Sue Saville, UK

Far too much blame is being put on Labour for the spread of foot-and-mouth. They have reacted well and are following the advice of vets and other professionals who are doing their best to get this under control. They have made unpopular choices such as the culling of many healthy animals, but for so many people who don't have all the facts to criticise these decisions is stupid.
Bill Aldridge, UK

This is mostly rightwing propaganda that the farming community has adopted out of frustration

Stanley Higgins, Islington, UK
I have always lived in Islington and have yet to see a Labour politician in a wine bar. This is mostly rightwing propaganda that the farming community has adopted out of frustration. Faced with the disastrous aftermath of their own misdoings, farmers lash out at the Government with blind rage. If I were Mr Brown, I'd stop the cull, remove all movement restrictions and tell these countryside ingrates to wait it out.
Stanley Higgins, Islington, UK

I am involved in both farming and tourism and feel that the Government failed to act decisively enough in the first two days, which has led to the development of the current situation. This is not a political statement, because I haven't got much time for politicians of any persuasion, but (no pun intended) anyone with any sense knows that when you've dug a hole deep enough to bury yourself, you stop digging!
John Stokes, England

It is unfortunate UK farmers are going through this disease. Culling is necessary for the renewal of the UK's food industry. But in order to maintain credibility of the meat business, it may have to be done in a very selective manner with close supervision of veterinary doctors. Remember the meat industry is not only for domestic consumption, but also for export industry. This is going to affect the industry but in the long run it will be back to normal.
Eddie Wanzusi, Moose Jaw, Canada

This Government probably knew of the threat late last year

Paul Webster, England
A friend of mine told me that last November New Zealand officials were disinfecting camping gear and other baggage of holidaymakers because of an outbreak of foot and mouth there. Where do we import a lot of lamb from? Exactly! I rest my case, this Government probably knew of the threat late last year.
Paul Webster, England

Down here in Devon it's not just the farmers who are hard hit. What about all the small businesses who depend on tourism? No compensation for them and many of them are in dire circumstances, but then they don't have the force of the NFU behind them with its one-sided publicity machine.
Mary Woods, England

Of course a mass cull is necessary. Once our entire farming industry is decimated we will be dependant on Europe for our food. Our "partners" will then be able to charge whatever they like, and we will be virtually forced to sign up to the barmy euro project. I don't see any other way the electorate will tolerate being bounced into Europe, so a desperate Government has to resort to desperate measures.
John B, UK

I think there are a number of questions that the UK livestock industry and Government need to consider in open debate: What is the real magnitude of loss to the industry if exports are lost due to foot-and-mouth becoming endemic? After all protecting export markets is the real reason that eradication is being pursued. Why isn't managing foot-and-mouth being considered? OK vaccines come at a cost and there would be some production loss but is it more than what the UK is losing now?

To me, the whole campaign reminds me of the US Army quote from the Vietnam War "We had to destroy the village in order to save it". This is not the first time that trade politics has meant crazy eradication campaigns.
Greg S, Australia

Vaccinate now and protect the future

Richard Gill, England
The policy of culling animals will do no good in the long term. Vaccination is the only answer. Consider the terrorist groups who are monitoring the effects of this outbreak on our economy. Why use explosives when a few drops of foot-and-mouth virus can bring about so much economic damage. Vaccinate now and protect the future
Richard Gill, England

We are all well within our rights of suspecting politicians of electioneering. But irrespective of who is "in" power, the politicians, especially during a crisis like this, are forced to listen to the advice of the civil service chiefs. I think all of those who think this crisis has been mishandled should do us all a favour and redirect their anger at the unelectable, not at the elected. Of course this wouldn't suit whoever happens to be in opposition, but who else cares. Have these civil service experts really got the kind of hands-on, under pressure, production experience that people at the top of their fields in the big bad rest of the world have? Somehow I doubt it. I blame Sir Humphrey.
Alistair Hale, England

William Hague appears to have a lot to say now that it's not his party that is in the spotlight. Of course the Conservatives would have learned their lesson from BSE, would not have tried to pretend the problem didn't exist and wouldn't have left it for the next government to take the blame and pay out compensation, would they? This Government isn't made up of vets or epidemiologists: they are taking the advice of professionals and doing their best.
Irene, Scotland

This scourge could and should have been smashed at its onset. It might well have been, had the right attitude been adopted. Ministerial policy has been - from the very beginning - far too vacillating, indecisive and inept. There has been a complete lack of firm direction and too great a tendency to play the matter down to the level of a "minor incident". Consider the far reaching measures adopted by Eire to prevent the virus being carried over their shores and contrast it with the attitude of those in control here who have failed utterly to comprehend the need for emergency regulations.
Elaine Baker, England

The only thing this outbreak has proven is that the British electoral are never satisfied

Matthew Salter, UK
I felt I had to write in to offer a balance to the anti-Labour hysteria infecting the contributions on this page. I believe the Government has taken bold (and unpopular) and proportionate measures to counteract this problem. To those who moan I ask "What would you have done?" The Government is following top scientific advice on this one and is letting MAFF do its job in tackling the outbreak. Had the Government acted earlier - before the outbreak was properly confirmed - the Tory press would have cried "knee-jerk". Had they not started the cull, the Opposition would have been baying for tougher action. Had the PM been seen touring farms he would have been accused of populism and "control-freakery" in not letting Nick Brown do his job.

Until William Hague broke ranks and tried to make political capital out of this, the whole matter enjoyed calm and rational cross-party effort. It seems that the only thing this outbreak has proven is that the British electoral are never satisfied and have an infinite capacity for whingeing.
Matthew Salter, UK

I don't see the cull as inhumane or unnecessary, the disease must be eradicated as soon as possible to prevent the disease taking a stranglehold on the country, as happened in Argentina. Many people seem to think a cull is cruel and inhumane but yet sit down to a red or white meat meal everyday without thinking how it got there. Such is the pace of modern life.
Warwick Goddard, Australia

I don't blame the Government - I blame the Opposition. Because until the Tory party get their act together, and provide a viable alternative to the current shambolic Labour Government, we are going to have to watch the Blair administration slowly extend its calamitous, moronic and ignorant grasp until our nation is completely destroyed.
Dean, UK

I think "Phil, UK" is the one living on another planet. He claims the firebreak is a good idea. When this thing can travel 50 plus miles over land on the wind alone I wonder how big a firebreak he would like to see. I doubt that a 50-mile exclusion zone around every confirmed incident would leave much of our country untouched. The answer is to vaccinate. If other countries don't want our meat so be it - we can feed ourselves instead of feeding other nations while they feed us. Once again, Blair proves he hasn't got the first idea what he's doing.
Dave Tankard, UK

I would like to respond to a comment made regarding insurance against foot and mouth. Yes it is true that only about 10% of farmers are insured against this awful disease. The reason for this low figure is because the Government has imposed so many additional costs on this industry - the UK farming industry produces food to the most stringent standards in the world, obviously this increases costs of production, for which the farmer receives to extra money. Farmers had to cut costs to survive, there had not been a serious outbreak in the UK for thirty years so this would be an obvious area to save money. Also it is claimed that it would be very difficult for farmers to actual claim any insurance money anyway due to the nature of this disease.
Julie Pickard, UK

Why the government blamed for these decisions but no one mentions that they're making these decisions based on the recommendations of the vets? If the disease is not dangerous to humans why not restrict all English beef sales to England? Then you can stop importing beef from other countries, inoculate or not based on your own considerations, give the farmers the support (money and subsidies) they demand and no one else has to worry about foot-and -mouth.
Linda, USA

I live in a Farming and Tourist area, Cornwall, and strongly feel that the culls are only exacerbating the problem rather than resolving it. The cities are not aware of how serious the problem is because it has not really affected them, but my whole community is very distraught about the whole thing. The cull is being initiated because of political and monetary issues rather than being the best solution for the poor men and women who nurture these animals. If vaccination and mass disinfecting programmes appear to have at least abated the threat in France shouldn't we be doing the same? Shouldn't the Government be assisting by getting this underway with vaccination programs rather than the farmers having to think of this and finance this themselves at a time when they are already at their wits end?
Ilya Radcliffe, United Kingdom

It is a shame but the slaughter is necessary. It is also a shame that some farmers are yet again going into militant mode by refusing to do so. Not only is this refusal to co-operate going to prolong the epidemic but it is yet another opportunity for the stupidly selfish Farmers For Action organisation to make another pointless stand and hold the country to ransom again for no one's benefit but their own. FFA should shut up, become serious in the current circumstances.
Andrew Cover, UK

There are synthetic vaccines available that create an immune response that can be readily distinguished from antibodies produced by the real virus. Why aren't they being used? This would not loose us our disease free status. What's the problem?
John Handford, England, UK

It is a short-term solution full of cruelty and waste

James, Canada
How can supposedly educated individuals actually believe that a mass cull will eradicate foot-and-mouth disease from Britain? It is a short-term solution full of cruelty and waste. So long as they hang on to such an ill conceived notion, the likelihood and impact of this, and any other infection will remain high. Only by applying preventative measures (such as vaccinations, less intensive farming practices, etc), along with appropriate incident management procedures, will Britain reduce the risk and impact of infectious diseases within the farming communities.
James, Canada

Will someone please explain to me what this Government is supposed to have done to farmers that is so bad? So their industry is struggling - that's economics. It doesn't help when they ruin their own product through over-intensive farming (BSE, swine fever and now this) and spreading this foot-and-mouth disease by illegally moving livestock. Farmers get enough tax-payers' money as it is. Think of the miners, the shipbuilders, the carmakers.
Jim, Avon

The disease effectively kills our meat exports as no other country will take meat from us if the disease is not removed. Vaccination will mean we can't tell infected animals from vaccinated ones. The Government is religiously following veterinary advice, hence the recommended cull to put a firebreak in front of the disease. The NFU which is the farmer's representative support the cull and don't want the delay. Anyone who seriously think that this was intentional as some conspiracy is living on another planet.
Phil, UK

Our livelihoods may not count but our votes might

David Kemp, England
I live in North Cumbria in the midst of the worst hit part of the country. We are surrounded by farms with foot-and-mouth. Most farmers would reluctantly accept the need for a cull of healthy animals to create a "firebreak" if they were convinced that MAFF were on top of the current strategy. The delays in diagnosis, slaughter and disposal have sapped farmers' confidence in the Government's capacity to tackle the outbreak effectively. Four weeks into the outbreak and we have had no visits from either the Agriculture Minister or the Prime Minister. Does anyone in authority really care about us? I guess they will be around though if an election is called. Our livelihoods may not count but our votes might.
David Kemp, England

I believe that this is just another case of the Labour Party being a complete waste of time. Rather than react immediately to the problem back on Feb 19th after the first case they let the virus spread. The French reacted immediately and have had only one confirmed case. I think that says it all. France 1, England 348. It's about time the Labour Party got their heads out of the sand and start looking at the real world rather than looking through their rose coloured glasses and seeing a fantasy world where everything is OK. I just hope that all the farmers and tourist people get compensated well as it was the Labour Party who turned this into a disaster and not them.
Dave M, England

Has anyone seen or heard from Tony Blair? Is he hiding in the cowshed? Good leadership I don't think! Everything is being done too late. We needed to involve the army long ago. We needed disinfectant mats on roads long ago. To suggest people can still go into the country to walk but not on farmland is being too naive. Many farms straddle roads. Keep the risks to a minimum. Help the farmers don't buy foreign meat! Those who do are being very short-sighted.
Helen Warner, Cornwall, England

As the Government considered that by destroying all the animals it will kill off the animals who may have a resistance to this virus which would give rise to a foot-and-mouth resistant breed of animal? The Government seems hell bent on destroying the genetic diversity of the animals.
Christopher Wells, USA

First we had Salmonella (poultry), then we had BSE (cattle), now the rest of the livestock are affected - will we ever learn. It's time for change. Intensive farming methods must be phased out in favour of more humane methods (at least free-range) and we must respect meat for what it is - or was - a living sentient creature. You cannot treat such as a business commodity without severe repercussions. If things don't change now - what next?
Carole, England

Whilst I have every sympathy with farmers who are suffering financial hardship, some of their comments have been bizarre. Why should their children need comforting because sheep and cattle are being killed - are they pets? Surely these animals have been bred for the butchers' shops, dinner plates and sesame seed buns of Britain. Do they normally feel suicidal when their livestock go off to the abattoir?
Leo Hickey, UK

I feel that the mass cull is too much as foot and mouth doesn't effect humans and is not fatal to any animals! The Government are killing animals due to the fact that profits from exports will decline as other countries do not want to be exposed to a similar epidemic. Vaccinations are a good idea yet the problem of mutation of the disease may cause later problems.
Olly, England

The cull of healthy animals is despicable and disgusting. It is Tony Blair's way of destroying the north of the country. Why do they not vaccinate? There are priceless irreplaceable Merino sheep to be destroyed who have not seen grass or the outside world since Christmas - how could they be infected. The whole thing is crazy. He is wrecking our country. Leave the farmers alone - have a heart and stop wasting money on stupid sinful things like that Dome.
Sheila, Northern Ireland

No this, cull is an appalling waste of animals. Vaccination is a costly alternative so it is being ignored. I think the government have "lost the plot" they are unaware of the harm this is doing to the world's view of the UK - not to mention the public's anger at the "closure" of the countryside.
Naomi, England

Where is the scientific evidence that wholesale slaughter and cremation actually works

Chris Newman, UK
Why is it that certain sporting occasions and mass gatherings have been cancelled or postponed, whereas others haven't. Why are football matches still being played every Saturday causing massive movements of people all over the country. Where is the scientific evidence that wholesale slaughter and cremation actually works? Are the bodies burned at a high enough temperature to destroy the disease which would easily spread on the wind via smoke. Also, I have heard of many cases where dead animals have been left for days before cremation where wild animals such as birds and foxes can scavenge and spread the disease very easily.
Chris Newman, UK

I have one thing to ask and that is that were do you expect to find the stock to replace the one that have been killed because it is lambing season and where do you intend to find stock after you have killed masses of healthy animals.
Pauline Cockburn, Scotland

I am amazed at all of this fuss, of course we have to cull the animals to be able to start over again, disease free. But why are we all screaming at our Government, the French killed all of the sheep imported from the UK within a two week period, these sheep had shown no signs of disease, so why didn't people create a noise about that.
Angela Severn-Morrell, England

Greed has caused this. You have to stop football matches, rugby, racing. It's a much better option than killing all your healthy animals. Act now.
Brendan Fahy, Ireland

Once again the Government is using double standards. On one hand it sets unrealistic targets for UK farmers thus driving the price up of UK products which cannot compete fairly against cheap produce from other countries with lower standards. The mass cull is a panic reation to a problem which does not cause any long term harm to the animals or to humans. Do people realise the damage this is doing to communities in the countryside? As for Blair and Brown's handling of the crises: terrible.
Duncan Rosie, Hong Kong

I have read all the comments and I support the farming community 100%. I agree that the Government are handling the situation in a naive and ignorant manner. I understand the frustration and fear of the farmers. I think there is a hidden agenda and I agree the Islington wine bar set are doing a fantastic job of completely ruining our country.
Jane Smith, England

Having lived through the '67 outbreak, how did we manage to contain it then without resorting to mass culling? It is a wind borne virus and killing healthy animals cannot stop it's spread - any mammal or bird can transmit it. Isn't it better to be more affective in culling and disposing of infected animals immediately instead of leaving the carcasses rotting in the open until they can be dealt with? What is wrong with vaccination - isn't animal welfare all our concern? Or is the Government only concerned with our export trade?
Reenie Ager, Sussex, UK

Sorry guys, it is time to start the vaccinations. Haven't these poor farmers been through enough? How powerless the farmers must feel about what is happening on their own land. Vaccinating is surely a far more positive step for farmers than standing by as their animals are slaughtered. What grief these families must be experiencing. The Government is worried about their disease free status - a bit late isn't it? It has already gone and will take months, if not years to regain, whether or not livestock are vaccinated. Let's start to think of the farmers and their well-being. This is 2001 - not the Middle Ages.
Penny, Australia

For those people who think that farmers are greedy and selfish, imagine that you could only do one job. Your life depended on that job, you'd spent years doing that job, and perhaps your forefathers. Then suddenly someone takes it all away from you. You can't do anything else. You have no income. Do you expect farmers to throw away their livelihood on a fire? Then expect them to just sit there. All the money they get to pay the bills, keep a family comes from farming. If they have no animals for meat, milk, cheese, wool. Where else do they get their money from?
Tash, UK

We demanded cheap and cheerful and that is what we got

Richard, UK
I think we all have to bear some responsibility for what has happened here. Farmers have adopted industrial techniques not out of their own greed but in order to retain their existing market. We Brits are rather lazy about our food. We want to get our food in one stop at low prices. As a result of this we have seen the rise of major supermarkets with colossal purchasing power and control on prices. We have demanded low prices and quite simply the farming community has been faced with a stark choice. Either push down costs or go out of business.

Perhaps if we had been more picky about our food in the first place we would not have allowed the supermarkets to grow to the extent they have. Farmers would then have had a more diversified market and sales would have been affected by quality rather than price. Rather than blaming the farmers we should really look at ourselves. We demanded cheap and cheerful and that is what we got.
Richard, UK

Why is everybody so anxious about foot-and-mouth disease while the real problem is the mad cow disease. In my country (considered "risky" in foot-and-mouth disease) everybody eats meat and never a person has been sick. Compared to the mad cow disease that it is estimated that one person per day is dying.
Herman Trench, Argentina

I cannot believe that no one has announced a national telephone number for members of the public to donate money to for the farmers and other businesses in crisis. We help other countries why no Britain. I want to donate! Where do I go?
Sarah Marsden, England

I was born and raised in the country, I grew up around farms and my only thinking on the spread of foot and mouth is that we have lost control of it, every day the figures keep going up and the spread is moving farther and farther into the country. I am saddened to think this but I think we need to admit defeat and start a fresh but this time get the Government earning their money as they work for the people not the other way round and get some strong laws in place to prevent this happening again. I also think that there was a bigger picture behind this problem, I strongly feel that this was not an accident and that it was done on purpose, who benefits by the banning of British products? I may be reading too much into this but given the history, it is extremely likely (and if it is true, it has probably backfired with the spread to Europe).
Will, U.K

All this because we like the taste of animal flesh. Look, it's very simple. Try a veggie diet. And if you really do miss the taste of meat, then there are some great veggie "meats" out there that, in my opinion, taste even better than animal flesh. At least give it a week. I did eight years ago, and haven't looked back since.
Paul, Taiwan

One has to wonder what the real motive may be--why the Government is so worked up over a virus that is not lethal and not spread to humans. Killing healthy animals will certainly wipe out the family farms--is that the government's motive? To foreclose the farms and take the land? Destroy Britain's agriculture? Margaret Thatcher (and her buddy Ronnie Reagan) did a nice job of destroying heavy industry and putting thousands into low paying service jobs. Is agriculture next, I wonder. And where will farmers go? To work in hamburger restaurants and sell hamburgers of imported meat at minimum wage?
Roxanne, USA

Anyone out there who thinks farming is an easy income should spend a few days with a farmer

Fiona, USA/UK
I have every sympathy with the farmers over this latest threat of a mass cull. If the Government is already having problems disposing of carcasses, then it seems mindless to add to it. I would also like to add for the benefit of those who refer to the farmer's as selfish and greedy that my uncle is a retired farmer. He never got rich from it. It was a hard life. Up at the crack of dawn for milking and coming in shattered in the evenings to fall asleep almost immediately in an armchair. And he was constantly having to diversify in order to survive. Holidays were few and far between as they depended on finding someone reliable to keep things running in his absence. On at least two occasions whilst taking a few day's break with us he was called home early as some problem had arisen with the animals. Anyone out there who thinks farming is an easy income should spend a few days with a farmer!
Fiona, USA/UK

Farmers the guardians of the countryside? (Mary,UK) Who's responsible for the c. 95% loss of hedgerows since World War II? The townies, creeping into the countryside every evening with shovels? Who's responsible for the insecticides and toxins dumped into rivers, the soulless remodelling of the landscape, the spread of BSE-generating infected feed long after a ban was imposed? I'm tired of seeing these irresponsible, self serving vandals held up to be the righteous victims of some indefinable evil that the 'townies' - those who have supported their unsustainable lifestyles for half a century - are supposed to have brought about.
Jim McDermott, USA

It is absolutely absurd to destroy a million animals amidst a famine crisis in many countries around the world. Instead of incinerating the animals, the EU should export the livestock to countries in desperate need of food. I am sure thousands of lives will be saved this way!
Danish Yusuf, Canada

Sort your staffing problems out instead of the easy option of a blanket cull

Jane Swallow, England
I live in Cumbria and for people to say we are being arrogant by disagreeing with a mass cull is ridiculous. Look at the facts: diseased animals are not being checked and diagnosed with any great hurry, then if there is a confirmed case it may take up to a week for the animals to be slaughtered before they are then disposed of. That is why the disease is spreading, because of apathy by the MAFF. Short staffed? Over stretched? Get a grip. If this is the case, sort your staffing problems out, instead of the easy option of a blanket cull. Arrogant? No. Fed up, yes. The only information we receive is from the newspapers, the TV etc. Where have the inspectors from the MAFF been? They rang me up a week last Wednesday, saying they were coming to inspect my farm. Well, where are they? I am still waiting. And meanwhile my animals are perfectly healthy. Lucky for me, or else I would be responsible for adding to a problem which is already out of control l.
Jane Swallow, England

Will someone from the Government please take the time to explain what is so bad about this disease? Apparently it causes few fatalities, the animals recover with only a small effect on meat or milk yield, and the disease is in no way harmful to humans. I hope these animals aren't being butchered just to save some politician's face.
Chris Hall, England

A mass cull defies all logic. Why kill healthy animals which have exhibited no signs of the disease long after the so-called incubation period? A more sensible approach would be to deal with the corpses of those infected before looking to those which aren't. But to expect a pen-pusher from London to understand how real life works in the rural areas is expecting miracles, isn't it?
Jayne Pickering, England

Given that foot-and-mouth is seldom fatal in animals and harmless in humans, a mass cull seems more than inappropriate. I agree with a couple of other posters on here who believe this is rather more sinister than that. The question is who stands to gain? Is it some business interest, political (EU?) pressure, or petty revenge against the farmers for various run-ins they have had with this Government?
Alex Stanway, England

This Government seems hell bent on destroying agriculture in this country so let's not mess around any more - kill all animals, healthy or not, just keep a few back for zoos and "rural museums" that way Blair and the Islington set can have their farming idyll whilst not having to worry about nasty things like reality (the Common Agricultural Policy, cheap foreign imports, foxes killing lambs instead of being cute Basil Brush types, angry farmers not voting for them, fuel blockades etc.) "Tony Antoinette" would I am sure be far happier if everyone played at the rural dream rather than lived its harsh reality.
Phil, Devon, England

Why should we care so much about farmers anyway? As a proportion of the economy their contribution is tiny, less than the tourism industry. It's time to bite the bullet and start vaccinating. Then everyone else can get back to normal. Even with compensation for farmers this could end up cheaper than putting the other 99% of the country on hold while the farmers sort out their problem.
Alex Farran, UK

This intended mass cull, cannot be justified. How can the farmers begin to cope with no income and the slaughter of their animals? Why can't the "safe" animals be vaccinated? It's because our so-called agricultural ministers want to save face and not lose our "disease free status" which has gone down the pan has it not? They are worried about the loss of the money which is huge. But if they carry on killing there will be no animals left to make money on will there?
Colin Schooling, England

The Government have once again over-reacted. The culling should stop. Only infected animals should be slaughtered and then buried - not burnt immediately - thanks to all the burning the virus has spread - they are all making themselves look silly running around like headless chickens and as useful.
Sylvia Paine, England

They are after all the custodians of our countryside

Mary, UK
The Government have handled this extremely badly and appear to gone into panic mode. It appals me to think of healthy animals being killed. Not all farm animals are slaughtered for food and the majority are cared for by the farmers. My butcher tells me that the price of bacon has gone up because Denmark have an outbreak of swine fever - have we stopped importing Danish bacon? Let's give more support to our farmers. Although they may not always get it right, they are, after all the custodians of our countryside.
Mary, UK

If they are going to cull "healthy" sheep what about hedgehogs, deer that may spread the disease? Perhaps we should starting eating horse like the Belgians, it's a healthier than beef with less fat.
Jacinta, UK

Forgive me if I'm wrong but as far as I understand this is not a fatal disease, which incurs no health risks for humans. I think we need to keep things in perspective. US citizens have been warned off British produce all together. This is not BSE.
Chris Booth, UK

Last week Nick Brown told the country that the epidemic was coming "under control". Now we are being told that we need to slaughter even more animals - regardless of whether they have the disease or not. This suggests to me that the slaughter policy is not working quite apart from being a disgrace to a civilised country.
Scott Ronald, Scotland

No, the cull is not necessary. What is the point of killing healthy animals and burning them whilst allowing the import of meat from countries where foot and mouth is endemic? We should either let the disease run its course, or alternatively allow culled animals that are healthy into the food chain. The current situation is not only farcical but from the growing number of cases is not even working.
Ann Maxwell, Wales

Nick Brown is doing one of the most difficult jobs in the UK to the best of his ability yet very few people realise it. Not many people could take the stress he is under and if he says that the best way is a mass cull, then so be it. I doubt anyone who complains about his way of doing things could do his job.
Derek, Wales

I feel for every fa farmer in the country. My family farms and the hell we are going through is nothing like those affected. This whole situation has been appallingly mismanaged by the Government. Farming has been suffering for years and this just tops it all off. The fact that the elections will go ahead at the same time is even more scandalous. The mass cull will not achieve anything but put more farmers in a worse situation.
Rachel Napper, England

Farmers who oppose the mass cull are selfishly putting the livelihoods of thousands of other workers at risk

Tim Day, UK
Cumbria's economy will suffer far more damage from the Lake District continuing to remain closed than from the loss of any number of sheep. Farmers who oppose the mass cull are selfishly putting the livelihoods of thousands of other workers at risk.
Tim Day, UK

As Cumbria is the worst hit area, I personally understand the farmers' opinion that mass slaughter does seem a little too far. However, if the Government is to contain this outbreak, the country as a whole has no option but to allow the cull to take place.
Marc Baillie, Cumbria, England

This is becoming more like an episode of "Yes Minister" every day!
Gareth Wade, Scotland

I'm not dependent on the countryside for my living, but am appalled at the way the Government and their so-called experts have handled the foot-and-mouth crisis. Ireland contained its outbreak by destroying animals as soon as symptoms were apparent, France likewise. Why have the British authorities been so slow to act?
Joanne Mead, Hertfordshire

If this is a virus then what is the point of disinfectant when it hardly kills household bacteria let alone viruses? Why has the Army not been brought in to help clear the dead animal bodies and why have we not thought about putting lambs and healthy animals into quarantine?
Buffy, UK

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18 Mar 01 | UK
Farm disease 'to cost 9bn'

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