FMD 2007 – why was the countryside held to ransom?


This morning, (8Aug2007) with livestock movements banned and the closure of public access beginning, we were witnessing the British countryside being held to ransom. Everyone feared this might cripple the rural economy if we faced a prolonged period of FMD.

Mid-afternoon today, Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds announced that there would be a relaxation of the stranglehold on farms – they will now be allowed to move livestock to slaughter, or to emergency care, and dead animals will be allowed to go to incineration plants. Farmers are breathing sighs of relief!

Debby Reynolds said that the decision was based on epidemiological evidence. But what if the FMD surveillance operation was not showing such promising signs? Farm business would be grinding to a halt and facing disaster, all because of the control-by-cull strategy.

We need a new strategy.

Mass slaughter is a brutal policy and it’s a false economy. We must vaccinate to control Foot and Mouth Disease – and we must start now. The cruel bureaucrats hidden at the core of Defra and the EU cannot justify killing to eradicate it.

The EU actually controls FMD on its borders by funding vaccination programmes– why not in the UK? This investment would save so much misery, both for people and animals. And just think of all the pollution from burning and burying dead animals, the cost to the rural communities, the fear of the countryside – all because of the mad Defra policy of mass culls.

Greedy lobbies with vested trade interests selfishly insist that culls make economic sense – they are wrong! The total value of export earnings from the livestock sector (£1.3 billion in 2000) was much less than the cost of the FMD epidemic (£8 billion in 2001).  

Farmers are guilty of letting the NFU speak on their behalf in support of this failed policy. It is high time they started campaigning for FMD vaccine programme.

Join the CIWF campaign

The leading UK animal charity Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) agrees with us, that vaccination is the way forward. They have a brilliant campaign running, and they emphasise that the Defra strategy must be ‘Vaccinate to Live’ – a kind and effective alternative to culling.

Visit for details, or to sign up with CIWF. Here are the CIWF top ten reasons for FMD vaccination:

1. If further outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease are discovered, the Government must be prepared to vaccinate all animals in the vicinity of the affected farm immediately in order to avoid the scenes of wholesale slaughter witnessed in 2001. Moreover, the vaccination strategy must be ‘vaccination-to-live’ for the sake of the animals, the farmers and the rural community.

2. There are two basic forms of emergency vaccination strategy: the ‘vaccination-to-live’ policy whereby the animals live out their normal economic lives and their meat is then eaten; or the ‘vaccination-to-die’ strategy whereby animals around an infected farm are vaccinated to reduce the spread of infection and are then killed.

3. Current scientific opinion is that vaccination would contribute to stopping the spread of FMD without significant risk of vaccinated animals transmitting the disease to other animals. The consensus from the EU’s Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal welfare (SCAHAW), the European Parliament, the Royal Society’s report Infectious Diseases in Livestock and the Anderson report, Foot and Mouth Disease 2001: Lessons to be Learned, is that existing vaccines and tests to detect infection in vaccinated animals are adequate for emergency vaccination to be used as part of the control strategy in future FMD outbreaks in the EU.

4. Vaccination can protect cattle, pigs and sheep within four days of immunisation. So a strategy that combines ring-vaccination on a protective basis (i.e. vaccination-to-live) with immediate slaughter of infected animals and those likely to have come into contact with infected animals, would form the basis of a coherent, humane and least disruptive FMD control strategy. This should be coupled with an immediate nationwide movement ban which the Government did so decisively.

5. Vaccination is not a new technique but a tried and tested strategy that has eradicated or controlled many animal and human diseases. Vaccination against FMD has been used successfully by many countries. Vaccination was the main method by which continental Europe became largely FMD-free by 1980. This would not have been achieved if vaccination were a risky or ineffective strategy.

6. New vaccines and tests allow the industry to distinguish between vaccinated animals that have or haven’t become infected by the FMD virus. In the past, the vaccine and the virus produced the same antibody response in the animal. New vaccines that are purified to remove the Non-Structural Proteins (NSPs) of the FMD virus mean that vaccinated animals do not develop antibodies to NSPs. In an antibody test, infected animals test positive for NSPs but animals that have been vaccinated but not infected test negative for NSPs.

7. It is highly unlikely that vaccinated animals can act as ‘carriers’ of the disease. This possibility has often been used as an argument against vaccination but the Royal Society concluded that evidence to suggest that vaccinated animals can become carriers and infect other animals is weak.

8. Export trade: use of emergency vaccination would mean that the UK had to wait only an additional three months to restart export trade compared to the situation where slaughter only is used to end an outbreak of FMD. To reject emergency vaccination is a false economy given that culled-out farmers may be out of business for a year whilst they restock.

9. The total value of export earnings from the livestock sector (£1.3 billion in 2000) was much less than the cost of the epidemic (£8 billion in 2001). Therefore it is a false economy for the UK to try to use mass slaughter, with its massive attendant costs, as a way of protecting livestock export earnings.

10. Animals are unlikely to be infected by airborne FMD virus from infected animals. Research from the Pirbright Laboratory has shown that the distance over which a large group of infected cattle could infect other cattle by airborne virus is probably well under 1km.


PS… in the old days, if a farmer saw one of his cows had FMD he got a piece of sacking and wiped the cow’s mouth with it and then infected the other cows with it to give them immunity! That’s vaccination!

One Response to “FMD 2007 – why was the countryside held to ransom?”

  1. Jonathan Miller Says:

    Vaccinate to live is obviously the plan that makes the most sense. Why shouldn’t owners have the CHOICE to vaccinate their animals, at their own expense? I have horses and I must keep them out of the food chain if they have had bute. I have to be able to prove this with reference to their passport and vaccination record. What is the problem? FMD is an ecomic disease that is manifested by irrational behaviour by those who govern us, thus can almost be described as a disease of mad officials.

    I have offered my own 10 points this morning … at my own humble blog. Where trained operators are standing by.

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