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UK Foot and Mouth Outbreak 2001

Updated on May 22, 2011

UK Foot and Mouth Outbreak 2001

Early in 2001 there was an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK. This led to more than ten million sheep and cattle being destroyed. Vets and their assistants assisted my members of the British armed forces worked almost day and night to destroy herds and flocks whilst farmers wept. Some even took their own lives.

Bad news seemed to follow bad news and each night on the TV there were even more upsetting footage of huge piles of burning beasts.

It was not a happy time for the tourism industry either. Restrictions on movements meant that people could not go where they wanted anymore. Small businesses failed.

Rumours were that the outbreak was started by Animal Rights as it was known that a test tube containing the virus had gone missing from a laboratory some months earlier. More believeable was contaminated meat being fed to pigs but who knows.

It was a very depressing era of our recent history in the UK. Strange though how quickly we forget.

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Foot and Mouth Disease is a highly contagious disease affecting cloven hooved mammals such as cattle, sheep and pigs. It is usually fatal. Human beings are very rarely affected.

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A personal take on the outbreak

It would appear that the foot & mouth outbreak has led to the temporary closure of practically every zoo and wildlife park in the United Kingdom. Even those collections which do not hold susceptible species have shut down in an attempt to encourage people to stay away from the countryside. No-one seems to know when it is all going to end. More cases of the disease are confirmed each day. Opinions are honed or changed each morning as each new expert expounds their theories. It is difficult to know who to believe.

There has even been panic buying of meat in the supermarkets. I could not purchase a chicken on Saturday. Panic buying appears to be all too common these days. Sporting fixtures, meetings and conferences have been cancelled. Travelling discouraged. So far there is tremendous public sympathy. But not for long. There is already talk of redundancies and laying off of staff in some industries.

To cap it all the local councils have taken on the most draconian of measures. I tried to take my dog for a walk in the local park on Saturday afternoon only to be confronted by signs that I would face a five thousand pound fine! The last time any cloven hoofed animal was anywhere near that park was over a hundred years ago. It will be longer before one is ever there again. This is a small patch of green in a built up area I fail to see the logic. Others have told me similar stories. I understand that even some skateboard parks have been closed.

Common sense appears to be burning on the pyres along with the beasts.

A Week Later

This foot and mouth plague continues to worsen. The first confirmed case in France today (13th March). More cases each day in the UK and no sign of peaking or levelling off. It is a worrying time for us all in Europe. Conspiracy theories abound I note that Calgary in Canada is starting to take precautions. A wise move I believe. This is no time for anyone to become complacent. We are only too familiar that animal related industries are affected to some degree. It doesn't stop there though. The whole tourist industry and associated suppliers are suffering too. A friend of a friend who supplies fruit and veg to local hotels has seen his daily turnover drop from £400 to just £5. There are many worse off than him. At least he had some cash come in.

As far as I am aware all the zoos which did close still remain closed. This is definitely starting to hurt. The weather has been dry, cool and pleasant. In fact, perfect zoo visit weather, and not a visitor in sight. Easter is not too far away. The thought of zoos being closed then is a very worrying thought. The UK's largest zoo has even raised the subject of bankruptcy. If you have a visit to the UK planned however. Don't cancel. In the towns and cities everything is as normal. We still have all the usual touristy things and the food remains excellent. Even the beef is great. I have never stopped eating it. It is just the countryside that is `no go' right now. This nasty little virus is spread so easily, in the air, by birds, cars, hay, people, foxes no doubt and so much more. In fact it would be difficult to think of something which it could not hitch a lift with. Surprising too is the range of creatures that can affected by it. Grey Squirrels, Hedgehogs, Camelids, Porcupines, Bears. Not a cloven hoof in sight.

Peter Dickinson (March 2001)

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Let us hope

Let us hope that lessons were learned and that we never have to face such a terrible situation again.

There was a small outbreak in 2007 in the UK. Happily this was largely contained and did not become a disaster.


Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello, - Yes you are correct. News just dies when the papers (who, in the form of the owners are our real masters) lose interest. I recollect all the conspiracy theories.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    The problem with news it is all over the frontpages and it vanished. Has it ever been looked into where it came from and what happened to the that testtube? It was also given in some newspaper that one Conservativ, even named him, took a sample and spread it to have one against the Labour and Rony Blair. He certainly didn't have a good start that time with the country completely on the ground and that on top of it.