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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 12:06 GMT
Foot-and-mouth warning one year on
Sheep are tested for foot-and-mouth
"More must be done" to prevent another outbreak
Farmers have said not enough has been done to prevent another foot-and-mouth epidemic - one year after the first case was detected.

Farming minister Lord Whitty has also said more must be done by the government, especially in controlling meat imports.

And the government's former chief scientist said the mass animal cull to combat the disease was based on flawed scientific advice.


The imports issue does need more attention and the government are addressing that

Farming minister Lord Whitty
Tony Evans, chairman of the National Farmers Union Livestock Committee in Essex, where the disease was first discovered, said the biggest remaining problem was imports of meat from areas where the disease is endemic.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there's still a lot of detail that needs to be remembered and analysed and make sure that it doesn't happen again, and I don't believe we're there yet."

Lord Whitty told Today the government was still addressing all the lessons learned from "an absolutely devastating year".

"We've now defeated the disease, we've got clearance for international trade and we've learnt some of the lessons.

"There are some further lessons to be learnt which the independent inquiries will be addressing and the government and the farming industry will be addressing."

'Incorrect assumptions'

He added: "Clearly there is always a danger in a globalised world of dangerous material coming in which may cause foot-and-mouth or some other disease.

Foot-and-mouth stats
2,030 cases
Animals slaughtered on 10,124 farms
6m animals slaughtered
Total ban on meat and animal exports for eight months
General election postponed
Estimated impact on farming: 900m
Estimated impact on tourism: 4.25bn
"The imports issue does need more attention and the government are addressing that.

"The lessons about it spreading, which are particularly important, I think have been learnt by the industry."

In an interview reported in the Daily Telegraph, Dr David Shannon, chief scientist at Maff - later Defra - during the crisis, said the government advisory committee set up by Professor David King made incorrect assumptions about the outbreak.

He said the "unusual group", informally scrabbled together, did not fully understand the disease, the food industry or farming practices.

Piles of carcasses

He said the group relied on computer modelling of the disease and any flaws in this could lead to a flawed policy.

Dr Shannon suggested that the software used to predict the spread of the disease was not sufficiently sophisticated for the purpose and needed further development.

Cows
Animal imports are still a cause for concern
He added that the group had failed to foresee that a contiguous cull policy would lead to vast piles of discarded carcasses littering the countryside, said the Telegraph.

But Professor King, responding to Dr Shannon's accusations in an article in the publication Science and Public Affairs, told the newspaper the group was broad-based and the advice was sound.

"The epidemiological models provided strong scientific underpinning for the advice we gave to the government."

He said they had used four different models, all of which supported the advice they gave, and all had been thoroughly discussed.

'Dither and delay'

The foot-and-mouth saga began on 19 February 2001, when a vet spotted the signs of the disease in some pigs at Cheale's abattoir at Little Warley in Essex.

It was the first confirmed case in Britain for 20 years and it quickly spread across the UK, virtually shutting down the countryside.

The last reported case was on 30 September 2001 at Whygill Head Farm, Appleby, Cumbria.

The High Court is considering a challenge to the government's decision not to hold a public inquiry into the outbreak.

Iain Duncan Smith, writing in the Telegraph, condemned the "dither, delay, sheer incompetence and lack of effective co-ordination across Whitehall that characterised their response to the disease".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"It emerged that the virus had spread widely over the following days"
Harper Adams University, Wynne Jones
"Something like this will happen again"
Auctioneer, Peter Willcock
"We are optimistic we can rebuild our business"

Personal tales

Background

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