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Lessons of 1967 'were not learned'

Oct 22 2002

Sheila Coleman Sheila.Coleman@Wme.Co.Uk, The Western Mail

 

IF the lessons learned from the 1967 foot-and-mouth outbreak had been heeded then last year's epidemic would not have been so catastrophic.

That's the view of Lord Plumb of Coleshill, former National Farmers' Union president and president of the European Union, who officially opened last week's Welsh Dairy Show in Carmarthen.

Lord Plumb, who is currently president of the farming charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), was also a member of the committee of inquiry which was set up following the disease outbreak in the 1960s.

But he says the committee's recommendations appear to have been ignored or forgotten when combating the 2001 outbreak.

"It (the 2001 outbreak) was handled very badly by comparison. The 1969 recommendations were accepted in total by the Government of the day - a Labour Government - they did not argue," he says.

The 1969 report he says contained several measures designed to prevent a future outbreak , including the halting of imports from counties where the disease is endemic, the possibility of ring vaccination of livestock, a slaughter policy, animals should be buried and not burnt, and the immediate involvement of the Army.

Lord Plumb says that at a re-union of those involved in fighting the 1967 outbreak many who had been on the frontline agreed that in those days there was a rule book so ministry vets could get on with the job of combating the disease.

This time he said it had taken civil servants five weeks after the start of the outbreak to write the rule book.

There environmental impact of rural practices has gained more emphasis with the establishment of bodies such as the Environment Agency and Food Standards Agency, while devolution has created an extra layer of Government. But he believes the horrors of the 2001 outbreak cannot and will not be repeated.

"There will never be another outbreak like this because I don't think the public will tolerate it, with (dead) animals hanging around for weeks on end." If the disease does strike again then Lord Plumb believes ring vaccination should be employed, but not for the animals to then be slaughtered at a later date.

"We have to vaccinate to live not to die, and they should be able to be used for milk and meat."

 

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Britain 'vulnerable to disease outbreaks'

Oct 22 2002

The Western Mail

 

BRITAIN'S farms are vulnerable to a wide range of tropical diseases as well as to the return of foot-and-mouth, MPs have been told.

Globalisation has vastly increased the danger from viruses previously unknown in the UK, said the chairman of the Royal Society inquiry into livestock infections, commissioned by the Government after last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic.

The Government should draw up "rules of engagement" now for outbreaks of each potential dis-ease, so there is no repeat of the furious arguments seen last year over whether culling or vaccination should be used to beat foot-and-mouth, said Professor Sir Brian Follett.

The contingency plan for dealing with a recurrence of foot-and-mouth should include emergency vaccination as a "tool of first resort" alongside the culling of animals directly affected, the Commons Rural Affairs Committee heard.

Prof Follett said he was "not sanguine" about the prospect of Britain being adequately prepared for future outbreaks.

Increased movement of meat and animals around the world meant foot-and-mouth outbreaks were more likely to come more frequently than they did during the 20th Century, while previously "exotic" viruses were becoming established in Europe.

He told MPs, "These diseases are around; there is evidence that they are moving closer to us."

Classical swine fever, which is not native to Europe, had entered the German wild boar population and was regularly infecting farm pigs there, while the "particularly nasty" disease blue tongue had crossed over from Africa to infect sheep in southern Europe.

Practical difficulties with emergency vaccination for foot-and-mouth should be over-come within the next 18-24 months, the MPs heard.

Within the next few weeks, Margaret Beckett's Rural Affairs Department will announce its response to the inquiry team's report into infectious diseases in livestock, which was published in July.