Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Foot-and-mouth: Is it the beginning of the end?

Prime Minister Tony Blair has declared victory in the battle to beat foot-and-mouth disease and said the disease is being brought under control.

It comes as the backlog of carcasses is being cleared and the number of new daily outbreaks of the disease continues to fall.

But some movement restrictions remain in force and rural footpaths closed. Many in the farming and tourist industry feel that their problems are far from over.

Have things improved where you live? Are you optimistic that the end is in sight? Or do you feel that your difficulties have only just begun?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The disease is far from over and its effects will be felt by the farming and tourist industries for a long time to come, though you wouldn't think so judging by the decline in news items on foot-and-mouth and Tony announcing the General Election. I only hope when this mess comes to an end that there is still hope for better animal husbandry and preservation of what remains of our countryside. Should farmers face the wall, land will inevitably become housing/retail developments. This could seriously be the future of our land. Perhaps this is what Tony and his wise men want? (Incidentally, does anyone know if there is a hardship fund for the farming and small business communities affected by this dreadful crisis?)
Sue, UK

I hope so very much - it's about time our grand farming community had their pride restored.
Mike, UK

Vaccination is the only solution

Gordon Mills, England
MAFF and Tony Blair haven't a clue what they are doing regarding FMD. Vaccination is the only solution.
Gordon Mills, Salford, England

For those who support vaccinations as the "answer" to this problem instead of culling, don't you think the meat you eat already has enough contaminants coursing through its veins and body, without this additional vaccine?
Anne, USA

Why can't the government help the farmer in Devon who is about to lose 980 sheep? If Phoenix can be saved to promote media hype then why ignore this mass slaughter? Enough is enough - surely there must be lots of people out there who object to this ongoing threat to farmers and healthy livestock!
Eloise1984, United Kingdom

This is all too convenient! The figures are most definitely being massaged to suit the government's aim for an election on 7th June. There are a number of cases that seem to go unreported or mysteriously disappear from the list of infected farms. There is more to come and with a vengeance!
Penny, UK

I think that foot-and-mouth is being handled wrongly. It is no danger to anyone and the animals only have it for three weeks so why don't we just let it pass? I know people who used to live in South Africa and they have foot-and-mouth there all of the time but it doesn't bother them so why should it bother us?
Amy Sellers, England

Nobody can have any confidence that the worst is over

Steve Folan, UK
I wonder how many cattle have been slaughtered as dangerous contacts and not been included as notifiable incidents in order to make the statistics look good. Nobody can have any confidence that the worst is over, as it is clear that the Labour Government have been focussed on making sure that they can have their elections asap, and have used their resources and developed their tactics accordingly. If the situation were to worsen, I could not trust Tony Blair to inform the country if it would look bad for his election prospects.
Steve Folan, UK

FMD is such an obvious falsification, it is amazing that an entire nation can be duped in this way. Of course now that billions of the viruses are airborne due to the incineration of the carcasses, the disease will spread throughout the previously uninfected regions.
Tony Kimball, US

The effects of foot-and-mouth are NOT over and won't be for many years, if ever. Life as we have known it is finished. Isn't this what New Labour wanted? This government has been twisting the truth and allowed the judiciary, police, army and vets to use force against its own innocent citizens and kill thousands of healthy animals. It is immoral, indecent and in many cases against European and British laws. Foot-and- mouth is a mild disease which is rarely fatal and does not affect humans, as we have all known for some time, so why has it cost this country its farming industry, and seriously damaged its tourist and other industries? It has cost the taxpayer a fortune. WHY? There has to be a hidden agenda. I think this should be seriously investigated and made front-page news. I believe something sinister is happening in this country which the government's actions over foot-and-mouth have brought to the fore.
Marilyn Sheooerd, England

How can Tony Blair justify saying that the crisis is nearly over when culls are still going on in the countryside. Many of my school friends from farming backgrounds are having to stay away from school, and they are apprehensive about the future. Sports fixtures and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions have been cancelled, and foot-and-mouths signs on country roads continue to remind us of the state of our countryside. Can't we have a government that actually cares?
Clare, UK

It is about time somebody took farming and the rural existence seriously

Amie Anderson, Northumberland, England
The country has been gripped with foot-and-mouth for the last 9 to 10 weeks. We have been living in fear of the disease since then. However now that fear has turned to reality as North Northumberland is now infected by this disease. Can someone please tell us why the Council are continually asking us to open up the foot paths to the tourists and ramblers. Only last weekend visitors were ignoring 'access closed' signs. Over the May Bank holiday weekend visitors from the towns and cities will arrive here oblivious to the crisis that is on our door steps. This is our livelihood it is about time somebody took farming and the rural existence seriously. This is an example of the general public being manipulated by politicians. As far as where concerned foot-and-mouth is by no means finished the nightmare is only just beginning!
Amie Anderson, Northumberland, England

I don't think the foot-and-mouth crisis will be over until we have had an enquiry into the Government's inadequate handling of the affair. Why did they allow the transportation of animals within the UK for 24 hours thus spreading the disease when they had already banned exports? Why were they making contingency plans two weeks before foot-and-mouth was made public? Why did they get authorisation from Brussels to vaccinate and then spend weeks dithering? Why are we so keen to protect our foot-and-mouth free status when we feed our Army on imported beef from foot-and-mouth rife Argentina? The list is endless
Beverley Crabtree, England

T If the 'battle' against F&M is nearly over, why are the contiguous culls still going on, resulting in huge numbers of healthy animals being slaughtered? Let us always remember that these Ministry people that make all the rules, remain the same whichever Government is in 'power'.
Janet Fanning, England

Call a general election and the problem disappears overnight!

Christopher Porritt, England
The scientists should forget culling and vaccination as a solution to "foot and mouth" the best solution to cure the problem is to call a general election and the problem disappears overnight!
Christopher Porritt, England

Why is foot & mouth always blamed on modern, intensive farming practices when it most commonly found in less developed countries where traditional subsistence farming predominates? Note also that it was pretty well endemic in the UK in the first quarter of the last century - the supposed golden age for British agriculture.
David, Kent, UK

I despair at the quality of the comments made here. There is a sadly a great lack of knowledge on many subjects from foot and mouth, tourism, agriculture and Government. I worry for the future of both rural and urban Britain if this is the level of debate and decision making we can expect in the future.
Mike B, England

Firstly F&M is obviously under control. To say it isn't simply because of anecdotal evidence is typically myopic. Secondly, I hope that people in the country will now realise just how much they depend on the urban majority. We keep their tourist 'industry' going and subsidise their farms.
Francesca Blair, Scotland

The disease may be now under control, but what about the lives of all those who have been affected? Many farmers across the country have lost all of their animals and have yet to rebuild their lives. Foot and mouth will not be properly under control until the livelihood of those affected is being re-established as well as just the eradication of the disease.
Emma T, Australia

My only hope is that we learn from this disaster

John Matthews, UK
It is very easy for people who write messages here to say to the Government, "You should have done this". The choice was there, either vaccinate or slaughter. There was NO other option. My only hope is that we learn from this disaster - two points in particular. Firstly, that the farming industry is controlled excessively by the supermarkets - local abattoirs need to be re-established. Secondly, it did not appear that contingency plans were in place - perhaps, if it were already decided what to do in the event of a foot-and-mouth outbreak, measures could have been taken quickly, instead of wasting time.
John Matthews, UK

How Tony Blair can say the worst is over without consulting with Alistair Campbell first is beyond me. Has the Prime Minister lost his senses?
Malcolm M, Scot

Let's hope it's an end to wall-to-wall coverage of farmers going on and on about how nobody understands them. I also hope it's an end to subsidies for multi-millionaire farmers to pollute our rivers.
Paul, England

This country will now have to carefully examine its current farming practices

Simon Bickersteth, UK
Although foot-and-mouth appears to be coming under control the legacy of this disease will be with us for a long time yet. It will take the farming community many months to recover from this setback, as well as many other small rural businesses and tourism that has been badly affected. This country will now have to carefully examine its current farming practices, and see how we can take better care of our countryside.
Simon Bickersteth, UK

North Northumberland is currently being devastated by foot-and-mouth with thousands of animals being slaughtered. How can anyone say the disease is under control?
Nicky Gordon, UK

Have we not learned anything? Doesn't the fact that the last two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth are only thirty years apart tell us that there's something fundamentally wrong with modern intensive farming? Wake up! This should be a lesson to us all that putting commercial interests ahead of everything else is clearly not going to pay off in the future. Unless farming methods change now, I'll wager we'll be looking at our next outbreak before 2020.
James McGregor, Scotland

The painful saga of foot-and-mouth, is the final nail in the coffin of farming in the UK and EU

Dave, Canada
The painful saga of foot-and-mouth, is the final nail in the coffin of farming in the UK and EU. The way that successive governments and EU ministers have reacted show just how little understanding there is about rural issues. Similarly, the majority of comments from those who have taken the time to submit here, only show further that the level of misunderstanding which the general public displays of the rural community is sadly lacking.
Dave, Canada

How can Blair possibly say that foot-and-mouth is under control when a previously 'clear' county has just had cases confirmed - i.e. Somerset - it is absolutely gutting - I don't know anyone who doesn't have stock in some shape or form and who will not be affected by this outbreak, it is desperate.
Susie Stace, UK

Under control! I seem to have heard that some where before.
Martin Clare, England

If you're looking for blame, then blame the Tories for closing local abattoirs and increasing livestock transportation

Phil, UK
People still blame the government for what was simply an unfortunate crisis. Stating that the government are clowns and have handled the situation badly shows up people who have little understanding of the situation. If the government were not the right people to control the outbreak then who was? Who exactly is trained for 'contain foot and mouth'? Who could have handled it better? It would surprise me if the people calling the government a bunch of clowns could! If you're looking for blame, then blame the Tories for closing local abattoirs and increasing livestock transportation.
Phil, UK

Lets hope that next time this happens, the government will get its priorities right and vaccinate to stop the spread. The most damaging outcome of this farce has been the bad publicity this country has received overseas.
Gordon Lyle, UK

Too many local authorities have been too slow to reopen footpaths. Negotiations to open a nature reserve path which crosses a closed footpath in a non-infected area seem to have taken weeks. As a result 2/3rds of the reserve is still closed. A path alongside a local harbour is closed because it passes 3 horses in a fenced off field without public access. This is less of a risk than walking down a tarmac road next to sheep in a field.
Pete Rowberry, UK

I think Britain should do well if it stops slaughtering cattle on a wholesale basis. All the infected cattle should be kept in a confined place and a through investigation be made as to see whether the disease is the result of the food we have been feeding them. As the saying goes, "man is what he eats", it must be the same with other living beings too; whether they are sentient or not.
Yuba Raj Koirala, Kathmandu, Nepal

Only once recovery is well underway is it time to talk of victory

Doug, The Netherlands
Just as a person may be pleased to come out of an operation to amputate a diseased leg, it's premature to talk of victory. The patient will of course need therapy for the mental and physical trauma. Only once recovery is well underway is it time to talk of victory.
Doug, The Netherlands

Of course when Tony says its over, its over. - He is calling an election next week - everything is fine, the country is open and everybody is happy - NOT!
Melissa, Canada

Until we see the end of the unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals then we have not won the battle. Mind you if we kill every sheep, pig and cow in England Tony can rightly claim to have won. But won at what cost the rural communities and most importantly our farmers have suffered and will continue to suffer for years to come. Bit like taxation I suppose.
Michael, England

I think foot and mouth is definitely on the way out and I object to paying compensation to farmers who've gone bankrupt when they were quite happy taking time off to take part in that ridiculous and selfish fuel protest last year - funny how they don't like government interference except in the form a large cheque.
Ian Davis, UK

With rescued animals like Phoenix the calf beginning lucrative TV careers and making public appearances, I can't envisage a future which doesn't offer constant reminders of foot-and-mouth!
Rebecca Southwell, UK

Politicians will always put themselves first and everything else can just rot - literally

Bilal Patel, UK
It doesn't matter what the real situation is or how many lives or animals have been destroyed. Blair and his cronies are bound to say that everything is well, so that he can get on with a General Election. Politicians will always put themselves first and everything else can just rot - literally.
Bilal Patel, UK

I think that John B. is a bit harsh in calling the countryside alliance a 'bunch of clowns', but I share his sentiments. The foot-and-mouth epidemic is over and I am glad that we will no longer be required to subsidise the filthy practices and traditional country pursuits of the green welly brigade.
Roger Bainbridge, Scotland

Well, of course, he has to declare victory over foot-and-mouth before he calls a general election. Whether his words bear any resemblance to reality has never seemed to matter to him before, so why should we expect them to now?
LaDonna, UK

The reports of the progress of the disease will sound increasingly good until Tony and his cronies are safely ensconced in number 10 for a second term. Then I think we will find things are still bad.
John Adlington, UK

Farming should return to how it was years ago, and animals should be treated as living creatures instead of commodities

Jean Bartley, England
Tony Blair should have taken notice of the professor who has studied foot and mouth since the last outbreak in 1967 who said MAFF should have vaccinated and NOT killed the animals that were not infected on the surrounding farms, this would have given them the 'fire break' needed to contain the disease.
The Government employ experts to give advice, but when sound advice is given they chose to ignore it. Lessons should be learned from this tragedy. Farming should return to how it was years ago, and animals should be treated as living creatures instead of commodities.
Jean Bartley, England

Perhaps the reason the government can't seem to get anything right is because the critics can't decide among themselves what IS right. No matter what the Government decides to do some group stands up and tells them they're wrong. The fact is it's not a simple thing to control and all of the decisions are marginal based upon a balance of likely outcomes.
Stephen, Scotland

From what I read here people are displaying in abundance their usual selfish attitude, i.e. what about my holiday? What about the TT races? What about my little walk in the country? Will foot and mouth effect me? Never mind anything else I come first. Humans are so damn inconsiderate it is unreal.
Gordon mills, England

The signs are looking promising, but lets not forget how quickly this disease escalated in the first place. One case a day can still get out of control if complacency creeps in. I also hope this will be the end of live animal export and unnecessary animal movement within the UK.
Simon Jones, Wales

Until the footpaths are reopened visitors simply won't come back

Phillipa, Wales
People are not returning to the countryside because the footpaths are closed - it isn't because they are worried about the disease at all. Surely mention should be made of this. Until the footpaths are reopened visitors simply won't come back.
Phillipa, Wales

I don't think that 9 new cases in a day can be perceived as the disease having been beaten. In decline, certainly, but until there are no new cases for at least two weeks, I don't think we can afford to start thinking that we're over this. Underestimate at your peril, Tony! Oh but that's what you've been doing all along.
Tom, UK

He can't say it is over until no new cases have been reported for the incubation period of the disease. To recover from the aftermath will take even longer.

With any luck this is the beginning of the end. The end of the torment for farmers throughout the country, and the end of being governed by this useless bunch of clowns who can't seem to get anything right. Large swathes of countryside are still totally off-limits and I don't see any improvement anytime soon. Still, at least now the local children's playground is closed there won't be any more drunken pigs and sheep causing trouble late in the evening.
John B, UK

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

Links to more Talking Point stories