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EDITIONS
Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 10:03 GMT
1967: Remembering the epidemic
cows in 1967
Doomed: Cattle at a cancelled auction in 1967
John Bennett was a young man when Britain was hit by the last major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 1967, but his memories of the terror felt by farmers have not faded.

Mr Bennett was, and still is, a farmer on Manor Farm in Worcestershire and was also chairman of the local branch of the National Farmers Union.


Our hearts were in our mouths for more than eight weeks

John Bennett
The 150-strong herd of cattle on his 250-acre farm, on the flood-planes of Worcester, escaped the disease - Mr Bennett puts that down to the combined efforts of farmers in the area.

At the peak of the crisis he remembers waking up every morning to listen to the farming programme on the radio, which broadcast at 0600.

"Every day we would hear the latest reports of villages where there had been new outbreaks.

"In our area there were 27 reported cases within five or 10 miles so you can imagine how worried we were. Our hearts were in our mouths for more than eight weeks.

United effort

He says the disease was introduced to Worcestershire when a local farmer fed skimmed milk, bought from Shropshire where the disease was raging out of control, to his pigs.

"We were lucky because we were on the west bank of the River Severn which runs right through the centre of Worcester," he said.

"We were up-wind of the areas where the disease took hold and thanks to the combined efforts of all the region's farmer the outbreak was kept on the east bank.

"We managed to raise eight or nine thousand pounds very quickly by asking all the farmers to make a donation and this enabled us to get a reserve supply of disinfectant.

"The local council was very helpful and they built two tarmac sleeping policemen at either end of Worcester bridge, which at that time was the only access from east to west.

"We filled the bit in the middle with straw and disinfectant to stop the disease being brought across the river.

'Lucky'

"As a result, we were very lucky and there were no outbreaks on the west side of the river and the measures we implemented certainly served their purpose in making the public aware."

Mr Bennett is convinced the disease was also spread by ashes from carcasses being incinerated.

"You could see all the bits and pieces coming off the pyres and that helped to spread the disease into the surrounding air," he said.

The 69-year-old farmer has been through his fair share of hardship throughout his years in the farming industry, but remains optimistic

He is not convinced the latest outbreak will result in a crisis similar to that seen 34 years ago.



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