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2002: UK declared free of foot-and-mouth
The foot-and-mouth crisis that began almost 11 months ago will officially end at midnight, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said.

There have been no outbreaks for more than three months - the last recorded case of the fatal and infectious disease was in Cumbria.

Also, tests on sheep flocks in Northumberland, where the disease was initially traced, have proved negative.

Farmers have said the decision by Defra gives them new hope for the industry's future.

'Long, dark shadow'

But it will be several weeks before restrictions on livestock farmers can be lifted, and international clearance for the export trade in animals and animal products will take longer.

Currently, only limited exports are allowed within the European Union.

Rural Affairs minister Lord Whitty said: "It will be some time, probably months, before our international partners restore our trading status in the European Union and beyond as a fully foot-and-mouth free state."

Nevertheless, the National Farmers' Union says the end of the crisis removes a "long, dark shadow" from the countryside where more than 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth have been recorded.

Since the first signs of the disease were discovered on 19 February 2001 at an abattoir in Essex, more than four million animals have been slaughtered - the majority of them sheep.

So huge was the cull, the army had to be called in to organise the burning of animals on mass pyres and their burial in mass graves.

According to the Countryside Agency, the government body which works to improve the life of rural England, the outbreak has cost the UK farming industry 2.4bn and the cost to tourism could be as much as 3bn.

Large areas of the countryside were closed and the drop in tourism numbers triggered a wave of bankruptcies among UK businesses, who depend heavily on high spending overseas visitors.

Farmers have criticised the government for the handling of the outbreak and not doing enough to contain the disease.

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Cattle on pyre
Millions of animals were slaughtered during the 2001 outbreak in mass pyres

In Context
The UK regained its international status as a foot-and-mouth free country, opening the way for the full resumption of exports, in January 2002 - sooner than expected.

Official figures from Defra show that six-and-a-half million animals were slaughtered.

It is estimated that the foot-and-mouth crisis cost the UK up to 8bn - the farming industry's financial loss was put at more than 900m.

More than 1.3bn has been given out to farmers as compensation.

In summer 2002, four reports were published into the outbreak.

The Lessons To Be Learned report criticised the government for failing to prepare for such an outbreak, and acting too slowly in their response after the first few cases were diagnosed.

Also, there had not been enough vaccines available for the millions of animals affected and the army should have been brought in sooner to deal with the crisis.

A report by the National Audit Office said warnings of a shortage of vets to deal with such an outbreak went unheeded.

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