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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Beginnings of a crisis
Slaughtered cattle await incineration
Millions of animals were slaughtered
The failure to prepare properly or react quickly enough led to last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak spiralling out of control, an official report is expected to conclude on Monday.

BBC News Online looks back at the critical early stages of the outbreak and what went wrong.

19 February 2001
A routine inspection at Cheale Meats abattoir in Essex finds signs of foot-and-mouth disease in 27 pigs.

Samples are sent away for analysis. It is now believed that the virus had already spread to 57 farms nationwide in the days before the discovery.

Government contingency plans, drawn up in the wake of the 1967 epidemic, were based on an outbreak occurring in maximum of 10 farms.

It had already been superseded by events before the first case was even confirmed.

20 February
The now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) confirms that the tests have proved positive.

The abattoir and two farms which supplied them have five-mile exclusion zones put around them. The disease is also found at a farm next door to Cheale Meats.

It is believed that Maff first contacted the Ministry of Defence to discuss co-operation in handling the crisis, although no concrete help was requested at this point.

21 February
All exports of live animals, meat and dairy products are banned by the UK Government, although the movement of animals within the UK continues.

The European Commission bans the import of live animals and animal products from the UK.

Northern Ireland blocks the import of animal and dairy products from the UK mainland.

22 February
A livestock market is held in Longtown Cumbria. With export bans in place, there are more animals for sale on the domestic market than usual.

Undetected, some of them are carrying foot-and-mouth.

Crucially, the UK livestock trade has changed markedly since the 1967 outbreak: what was once a local trade has now gone national, meaning the disease is able to spread much more quickly, and much further afield.

23 February
The government introduces a ban on the movement of animals from affected areas.

24 February
The first mass slaughter, involving thousands of pigs and cattle, gets underway in farms across England.

2 March
Faced with overwhelming numbers of animals awaiting slaughter, the government calls in the army to help organise the cull.

Monday's official report is expected to say troops should have been brought in much sooner.

By the time the last recorded case of the outbreak is found in Little Asby, Cumbria, on 30 September, 6,094,139 animals have been slaughtered, and the disease has cost the country an estimated 2.4-4.1bn.



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