from the full report of the Cumbria Inquiry (warmwell's emphasis) Cumbria County Council have set up a forum to discuss the Report
1. In 2001 the UK experienced probably the most serious epidemic of Foot and Mouth
Disease (FMD) ever to occur in a previously FMD-free country. Almost from the start the
epidemic was widespread; there were outbreaks from the North to the South of England, in
Southwest Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. The disease was first detected in mid-February
and the last outbreak was confirmed at the end of September. During the intervening
period 2,026 outbreaks were recorded in Great Britain and 4 in Northern Ireland.
2. Cumbria in Northwest England was at the epicentre of the epidemic. It suffered 893
outbreaks and was the second longest affected area. The County, which is rich in natural
heritage and scenically beautiful, has livestock farming, tourism and outdoor recreation
amongst its economic mainstays. The effect of FMD was therefore devastating.
3. In addition to the infected farms, a further 1,934 farms were subjected to complete or
partial animal slaughter as part of the disease control and eradication measures. Restrictions
on livestock movements also impacted on non-infected farms, resulting in livestock
management problems and economic losses. As a result of restrictions on public access to the
countryside, tourism, outdoor recreation, public amenities and some public services were also
4. The disease eradication policy of livestock destruction on both infected and ‘exposed’
farms required a massive scale of slaughter and animal disposal, and there were problems in
implementation of disease control, communication and other measures. These led to an
upsurge of public concern over the way that the epidemic was being handled.
5. When the epidemic had been brought under control and recovery of the economy
established, the Cumbria FMD Task Force and Cumbria County Council considered that there
were important issues that needed to be reviewed as a basis for the development of future
policy. It was concluded and that these would be addressed best through an independent
Public Inquiry with terms of reference to consider:
- the outbreak and control issues
- advice, communication and local and central relationships
- organisational and capacity issues
- impacts on the wider Cumbrian economy
- aftermath, recovery and regeneration
- recent policy developments and future strategies.
This is the Report of that independent Public Inquiry.
6. The Report is in four Parts.
The Introduction provides the necessary background to the
disease and to the national policies, and developments in policies, for its control and
Part 2 deals with the FMD epidemic that occurred in Cumbria, focusing on issues
related to its control and eradication.
Part 3 examines the economic, environmental and social
impacts of the disease.
Part 4 considers the future, and particularly the development of the
Cumbria Rural Action Zone (RAZ) programme.
7. Almost inevitably, given the nature and unprecedented scale of the 2001 epidemic, the
disease control measures adopted by the UK Government were complex. Policies and
strategies were adjusted to deal with the emerging situation, and both the legal requirements
and implementation on the ground were subject to continual change in order to address
problems as they developed. The Government’s submission to the national ‘Lessons to be
Learned’ Inquiry conducted by Dr Iain Anderson, and the recent National Audit Office report,
give a step by step account of events and decisions that were taken as the epidemic
progressed. This conveys the impression of a considered and measured response to an
escalating animal disease crisis, and recognition that there were some limited problems.
8. In contrast, on the basis of the evidence gathered in Cumbria, we found that on the ground
there had been confusion, disorder and delay. In a few cases this was attributed to failures or
errors on the part of individuals. However, in the majority of cases, we encountered
appreciation and praise for the dedication and hard work of the personnel who were actively
engaged in dealing with the crisis. But, we found widespread dissatisfaction with the ‘system’
and with many operational aspects of the disease control and clean-up measures.
9. Against this background we have considered organisational structures and resources locally
in Cumbria, as well as matters of communication both locally and with central government
structures. We have then turned our attention to movements of livestock, disease spread,
biosecurity and the disease control and eradication procedures, including the policies of 3km-zone
culls and contiguous premises culls. We have also considered the use of vaccination to
assist in disease control.
10. Even making full allowances for the almost unique circumstances that arose during the
2001 FMD epidemic in Cumbria, we were disturbed by the range of systems and
communications failings that were identified during the Inquiry. A lack of appropriate
contingency planning, and a failure to adhere to some of the provisions in the contingency
plan that existed, compromised the FMD disease control campaign from the outset. This was
made worse by the insularity of the local Animal Health Office and by a failure to adopt a
multi-agency approach in shaping its early response to the disease. Things did improve in
later March but the measures effected then should have been in place sooner.
11. We have concluded that it is no longer sensible to consider FMD wholly in isolation from
other areas of emergency planning. The devastation the disease can bring is now fully
apparent, and after 11 September 2001 bio-terrorism must be regarded as an additional risk
factor. We accept the rationale of the decision made by Cumbria County Council to await a
lead from MAFF/DEFRA, and not to open the County’s Emergency Centre. However, we
believe that in planning for a future multi-agency response the Emergency Centre should be
considered as a ‘hub’ facility. This should be agreed with DEFRA within the framework of
12. Speed of response in halting animal movements and in making decisions to cull infected
animals or dangerous contacts is crucial in getting on top of FMD, and the evidence suggests
that in the early phase of the 2001 epidemic there were delays that should have been avoided.
There are also indications that the length of the Cumbria epidemic reflected a failure in the
application of the slaughter strategy that was adopted.
13. We also set out our concerns over issues of biosecurity and the problem of developing
improved biosecurity against a background of uncertainty about the detailed epidemiology of
disease spread. The scale of the outbreak in 2001 was enormous but, as yet, there is little
evidence that the epidemiological data that has been collected is providing new insights which
will help to develop improved disease control strategies.
14. An integrated risk-based strategy for FMD is outlined, taking account of the experiences
of the 2001 epidemic. This addresses the themes of prevention, planning, prompt response,
premeditated tactics and prepared recovery measures, each of which could be separately
evaluated as part of an overall defence strategy. We recommend that Government establish an
independent Working Party to develop an integrated risk-based strategy using this type of
15. In line with the importance of agriculture and tourism, FMD reduced the economy of
Cumbria by an estimated £266m, or approximately 4% of the GDP of the County. Income
loss to agriculture was approximately £130m, equivalent to 41% of the normal total livestock
output of the County. Indirect effects on the wider economy through agriculture were about
£30m, two-thirds of which related to the effects on the animal feed industry. However,
compensatory payments to farming for compulsory slaughter of livestock provided a positive
cash flow into the County’s agriculture of some £90m.
16. The economic impact on tourism varied substantially with the type of tourism business
and its location. However, total revenue was reduced by some £200m, with a further indirect
effect of £60m on the wider economy. In the worst affected areas in June 2001 turnover was
reduced by two-thirds, causing some business virtually to cease trading. The effect on jobs
appeared largely ‘absorbed’ by reduced recruitment of summer workers and by ‘under-employment’
of workers who were not eligible for unemployment benefit or did not register
as unemployed for other reasons.
17. Various government schemes were introduced to ease the burden on businesses during the
crisis. Those providing rates and taxation relief or deferments of payments were well
received. State Aid constraints on the structure of the Business Recovery Fund, channelled
through the Regional Development Agency, limited its usefulness. It would have been better
if greater flexibility in the application of the funding could have been exercised. A range of
charitable organisations and local voluntary groups undertook excellent work in meeting local
needs. Considerable leadership was provided through the Cumbria FMD Task Force, which
was brought together under the initiative of the County Council.
18. Carcass disposal by landfill, mass burial or burning on pyres raised a range of
environmental problems and exposed significant shortcomings in communication and liaison
between central government departments/national agencies and the local Departments of
Environmental Health and Public Health. Some of the methods of carcass disposal that were
adopted raised significant local issues that should be avoided in any future outbreak. These
have left a legacy of community concern, particularly in respect of the future of the mass
burial site at Watchtree, near Great Orton.
19. There was considerable evidence of the impact of the FMD outbreak on community life in
rural Cumbria and on aspects of emotional, social and mental health. These effects are
difficult to quantify on a population basis but results of ongoing research, with a study group
of 54 people from a range of occupations, give cause for concern. Some 20% of the group are
reporting signs of post-traumatic experience and 11% are being treated for clinical depression
20. Based on the work of the Rural Regeneration Team of the Cumbria FMD Task Force,
proposals have been advanced for the creation of a RAZ programme. This covers broadening
the base of the rural economy, renewing and strengthening tourism, developing and enhancing
agriculture, promoting environmental sustainability, and delivering social and community
regeneration. The programme, which is in the final stages of consideration for additional
Government funding, is highly innovative in approach and has the potential to become an
international exemplar in co-ordinated rural development. We have considered the economic
development aspects of the programme, and the needs for programme implementation in
agriculture, tourism and other areas of business, and made specific recommendations.
21. We believe that the Social and Community Regeneration programme will go some
considerable way to re-establishing the community frameworks and networks that have been
damaged or lost during the FMD epidemic. However, we have concerns that there are deeper
societal effects that may be difficult to address.
22. During our collection of evidence we became conscious of repeated underlying themes
related to the remoteness of central government from farming practice and the rural way of
life. All sectors of the community expressed disenchantment with the political system and felt
they had been let down during the FMD crisis. This seemed symptomatic of a growing
distrust and community alienation.
23. The challenges facing agriculture and the rural areas of Britain are difficult to
overestimate. However, reflecting Britain’s population distribution, urban issues often
dominate political priorities. There is a need to find ways of raising awareness and
understanding of rural agendas and for public policies to be formulated from a practical
understanding of the problems that need to be addressed.
Below are extractsfrom the full report, chosen by warmwell on September 6, the day of the report's publication
Sept 6 ~ "The length of the Cumbria epidemic reflected a failure in the application of the slaughter strategy that was adopted.."
Below are some extracts from today's Cumbria Report into FMD. The report may be read in full here.
Sept 6 ~ there is little evidence that the epidemiological data that has been collected is providing new insights which will help to develop improved disease control strategies.
This point is, in our opinion, one of the most important to be made apart from those about the social impact of the handling of the disease. This tragically wasted opportunity, brought about by the failure of those in charge to seek and take advice, has made Britain seem foolish in the eyes of rest of the world.
Sept 6 ~ 'it was like a war zone'
"Family life was disrupted; livelihoods were under threat; social activities were curtailed; and friends became divided by conflicts of view or competing interests. We have heard of the tension in the community, but also of the collaboration, mutual support and community leadership that came to the County's aid when it was most needed.
During our inquiries we received evidence of the many hardships that were faced by individuals and families, and of the distress, frustration and anger (not always in that order) that were experienced. We have been impressed by the commitment and outstanding work of the many groups and organisations that played vital roles in providing practical support and assistance. And we have noted the community appreciation of the many individuals who worked tirelessly to deal with the crisis and fashion recovery and regeneration. The most frequently applied description has been 'it was like a war zone', and few people to whom we have spoken would seem to disagree..."(p76)
Sept 6 ~ a 'great indignity to the animals'
The Cumbria Report. We received a personal account of this kind of situation in oral evidence from Councillor G. Strong whose 246 cattle and 750 sheep had been disposed of a week after slaughter. By that time the animals were beginning to decompose and 'come apart' as they were being moved for destruction. This was a 'great indignity to the animals' and the smell was causing significant distress both to the farmer and his family and to his neighbours in the nearby village."
Sept 6 ~ post-traumatic experience
"There was considerable evidence of the impact of the FMD outbreak on community life in rural Cumbria and on aspects of emotional, social and mental health. These effects are difficult to quantify on a population basis but results of ongoing research, with a study group of 54 people from a range of occupations, give cause for concern. Some 20% of the group are reporting signs of post-traumatic experience and 11% are being treated for clinical depression or anxiety." (Executive Summary)
Sept 6 ~ remoteness of central government from farming practice and the rural way of life
(p12) " During our collection of evidence we became conscious of repeated underlying themes related to the to the remoteness of central government from farming practice and the rural way of life. All sectors of the community expressed disenchantment with the political system and felt they had been let down during the FMD crisis. This seemed symptomatic of a growing distrust and community alienation...urban issues often dominate political priorities. There is a need to find ways of raising awareness and understanding of rural agendas and for public policies to be formulated from a practical understanding of the problems that need to be addressed. ."
Sept 6 ~ ".. the insularity of the local Animal Health Office "
"..we were disturbed by the range of systems and communications failings that were identified during the Inquiry. A lack of appropriate contingency planning, and a failure to adhere to some of the provisions in the contingency plan that existed, compromised the FMD disease control campaign from the outset. This was made worse by the insularity of the local Animal Health Office...." (Executive Summary)
Sept 6 ~ Great Orton
"...during its construction and use it brought great disruption and distress to the local communities, including the village of Great Orton. Large numbers of heavy lorries and the pervasive smell from the site were major problems until late 2001. Since the site is government owned it did not require normal local planning approval, and there was little if any pre-consultation. We understand that the facility may be unique in that it will be controlled under the Groundwater Regulations 1998 rather than licensed as a waste disposal facility. There is some concern on the part of the Local Authority Environmental Health Department that this may present longer-term regulatory and enforcement issues...." (p74)
Sept 6 ~Communication problems with DEFRA
"... a significant number of those who spoke to us, particularly at the public meetings, had encountered problems of communication with DEFRA at some stage during the chain of events from their farm being identified for slaughter to payments being received for the livestock destroyed. We cannot attempt to offer an authoritative analysis of the range of communication problems that occurred during the epidemic, but the subject deserves serious study as a basis for improving government services to rural communities. The following list, which is not in any order of priority, indicates communication areas we noted as being problematic.
- Communication as a two-way process. There was, and remains, a sense of frustration amongst the communities of Cumbria that the communication during the epidemic was 'top down'.....
- Simple Messages. ...
- Methods of communication. ....
- Consistent information. .... (see page 34)
Sept 6 ~ We recommend that, as a matter of policy, all changes by Government in disease control legislation
requiring implementation by Local Authorities should be supported by appropriate risk-assessment guidance (page 79).
Here is a list of the Report's major recommendations.
Sept 6 ~ "Vaccination must be regarded as an essential element in the control strategy.
Under these circumstances there is a significant risk that slaughtering to 'stamp out' the disease will fail to keep up with its spread, and disposal will fail to keep up with slaughtering. In short, there is the risk of creating circumstances similar to those which occurred in Cumbria in 2001, where large-scale slaughter of animals was ineffective as a rapid and efficient method of disease control. We believe those circumstances should be avoided at all costs ...a vaccination-to- live policy would require a livestock support regime that would offset market failures occurring as a result of the vaccination policy adopted. ...we understand that such a scheme might be acceptable under EU law." (page 56 Cumbria Report)
Sept 6 ~"usefulness of the data..."
We recommend that DEFRA commissions an external review of its provision of epidemiological support in connection with FMD, and of the usefulness of the data collected to the understanding of disease spread."
Sept 6 ~ "We recommend that DEFRA undertakes a comprehensive revision of its draft contingency plan
in the light of the findings of this and other FMD Inquiries. The plan should be conceived on a multi-agency basis and should engage all the relevant agencies, including the County Councils. In local FMD planning, the Cumbria County Council Emergency Centre should be considered as a 'hub' facility for any future multi-agency response......the local Contingency Plan should specify clearly the stage and scale of epidemic that will trigger a request from DEFRA for assistance from the Army........local authorisation of action in dealing with an outbreak should be introduced as early as possible, with DEFRA headquarters kept fully informed of decisions......"
The Carlisle Health Office was "overwhelmed", As a result of the handling of FMD, the farming and rural communities of Cumbria have suffered an enormous loss in confidence in DEFRA. It will be an uphill struggle for the Department to restore the relationships....
Sept 6 ~ Cumbria Report (p34) "Totalitarian"
" We received a range of distressing accounts of poor communication between the authorities and farmers (and others) relating to the culling and disposal of animals. In some instances the approach that the authorities were described as having taken bordered on the totalitarian. We can find no excuse for this..."
"Relevant knowledge. In dealing with the farming industry, communicators and administrators require a relevant level of knowledge of agriculture and food production. In many instances this appeared to be lacking.
Written communication. .... Some letters used unfortunate choices of expression, were not sufficiently clear or appeared threatening..... poorly photocopied forms that were difficult to read..... evidence of the Department giving verbal instructions or making agreements, which were not confirmed by letter, leading to later dispute " (page 35)
Sept 6 ~ "an upsurge of public objection and to expressions of public concern, frustration and anger
at the way that the epidemic was being handled. Individuals and communities felt that they were being unconsidered or poorly served by the authorities, and there was a loss of confidence in the government department leading the control and eradication process....." The Cumbria Report on FMD may be read here.