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Files about the connections between key players in the Foot and Mouth crisis: Sir John Krebs, Professor Roy Anderson, Professor David King, Sir Robert May, Dr Neil Ferguson

What was actually available to the authorities in 2001... who chose mass slaughter instead.

For the transcript of Farming Today on the Belfast research showing that there is no evidence that contiguous culling controlled foot and mouth see below

Vaccination was successfully carried out in Uruguay at the same time as FMD raged in the UK . As was said at the time, "Massive killing and disposal cannot be carried out with sufficient bio-security and, therefore, represents a high risk of spreading FMD"
See Uruguay pages.
The rapid diagnosis PCR test, actually offered to the UK - and rejected - in March 2001, was used in Uruguay and "performed splendidly on-farm in a remote area "-

See also what Prof David King said in December 2002 - "What we had at our disposal at that time left us with the cull policy to control the epidemic."

The late Professor Fred Brown said, on the BBC programme Kill Not Cure in October 2001, ".... vaccination has been put on one side, barely considered." and "These vaccines, present day vaccines, are very effective. You can get immunity within four or five days."

As for the Rapid Diagnosis tests, it was noted in tactfully phrased evidence to the Royal Society Inquiry (pdf. new window) "Unfortunately, yet understandably, Pirbright staff were too busy coping with the demands of epidemic control to explore new technology during the spring and summer of 2001 . As a result, my offer to provide the latest diagnostic technology was not taken up. Fortunately, we were able to take the devices and test system into the field in Uruguay in November 2001, where they performed splendidly on farm in a remote area..."

Farming Today September 17 2004

"...Also on the programme .... one of the methods of controlling what appeared to be the relentless spread of foot and mouth during the disastrous outbreak of 2001 was the contiguous cull —slaughtering animals on farms next to infected premises. More than a million pigs, cattle and sheep were culled on this basis. The decision to introduce the contiguous cull was influenced by several leading disease control experts - or epidemiologists, including Professor Roy Anderson from Imperial College in London . But new research suggests that there's no evidence that contiguous culling controlled foot and mouth. The work has been carried out by the Veterinary Epidemiology Unit in Belfast . The Unit's Dr Nick Honhold explains to Sarah Mukherjee how he got these results. The Inquiry that looked at the lessons to be learned from the outbreak described the contiguous cull as a blunt instrument - but it had the benefit of speed of decision making. Professor Roy Anderson — one of those that influenced the contiguous cull decision — denies he ever said it was the only option.

(warmwell transcript)

Friday 17 September
"...the decision to introduce the contiguous cull was influenced by leading disease control experts or epidemiologists including Professor Roy Anderson from Imperial College in London.  But new research suggests that there is no evidence that contiguous culling controlled foot and mouth.  The work's been carried out by the Veterinary Epidemiology Unit in Belfast.  The unit's Dr Nick Honhold  told me how he got these results:
Dr Nick Honhold ~ We used the field data for the three biggest clusters in England - that's from Cumbria, the South West and the Settle cluster that straddled the Yorkshire/Lancashire border and we analysed it to look at the effect of the different control policies that were being applied at the same time - that would be the speed of slaughter, the intensity of contiguous premise culling and the intensity of non-contiguous premise culling and we looked at the effect of that on a thing called the "Estimated Dissemination Rate" which sounds complex but is just the number of cases - and this we divided by the number of cases that occurred in the previous week and it gives you an idea of the slope of the epidemic curve.  If it's greater than one then the disease is obviously spreading.
FT ~ What did you find when you looked at those different methods of trying to control the disease?
Nick Honhold ~ We found that the time from first lesion to slaughter - that's the speed of slaughter had a significant effect.  If you make the time to slaughter shorter you bring the disease under control.  We found in some cases that non-contiguous culling had a similar effect: the more non-contiguous farms you culled the lower the EDR became.
FT ~So killing off animals in farms next to diseased farms may actually make no difference to the spread of the disease?
Nick Honhold ~ Some contiguous farms will have been infected - but those can be selected on risk assessment grounds.  What we;re saying is that there isn't the  requirement to automatically kill animals on contiguous farms per se.  In fact there has been a paper published in the Veterinary Record that comes out today which shows that veterinary judgement can be used to select which farms should be killed and if we didn't leave any disease behind and yet we are able to leave a substantial proportion of contiguous farms standing.
FT ~ When the epidemiologists at Imperial College who were doing the main bulk of the foot and mouth disease analysis were asked, they said that contiguous culling - I think the quotation was - that it was the "only option".  What do you think about that, bearing in mind the research you have done?
Nick Honhold ~ We have looked fairly carefully at the models that they used and within those models  they have a very short time for a farm to reach maximum infectivity to its neighbours - it's one to four days after the virus arrived  - and the farm then remained this infectious until it was slaughtered.  And that means that the farm in their model could have infected its neighbours before the disease was found - and that sort of leads to a requirement for a pre-emptive contiguous cull.  It's a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. And if foot and mouth disease really behaved in that way then such a cull might be necessary.
FT ~  Do you think that the Imperial College model that was used made a difference to the duration of foot and mouth disease in this country - and indeed the amount of money that was spent in killing animals and compensating the owners
Nick Honhold ~ We would certainly feel that there was rather more culling of contiguous farms than was required and that obviously had rather a devastating effect on the farms where it was carried out.
The Inquiry that looked at the Lessons to be Learned from the outbreak described the contiguous cull as a "blunt instrument but it had the benefit "- the author said - "of the speed of decision making."
Professor Roy Anderson, one of those as we mentioned, that influenced the contiguous cull decision, denied he ever said it was the only option.
Roy Anderson ~  The most important thing is was speeding up the removal of the infected premise so that you reduced the amount of time that infected animals had to, as it were, exude virus and spread it onto other animals and other  herds.
Now with the current paper  - and I am delighted to see an analysis of this type take place because that is very important and one needs to continue with this sort of work - However, I do have  scientific queries about the methods of analysis used and the conclusions drawn.  What they did is aggregated the data into three large groups.  You can't do that with this sort of analysis  in my view. You're trying to follow individual chains of transmission to see how much quick removal of the index premise and then subsequently the removal of the surrounding premises if it's done quickly enough help to restrict further cases in that local spatial area. (sic)
FT~ Would you have recommended any other methods, looking back?
RA~ Now today, as opposed to 2001,  we have better options for rapid diagnosis in the field - what are called the penside diagnosis  - the vet in the field instead of waiting say 24 or 48 hours for a sample to be sent to a laboratory for confirmation - there are more rapid methods available now to get a pretty good feel of whether that is or is not foot and mouth.  So that's one option that you can do today.  And then a second option that is in everybody's minds of course is can one use vaccines to try and avoid the large scale slaughter that took place last time to try to bring the epidemic under control.  And again, our options are getting better there.  They are not perfect by any means.  There are still considerable problems with vaccines but our options are a lot better today than they were in 2001.
FT~  So overall, to conclude, I mean, do you feel that we are far better prepared scientifically and veterinarily than we were at the beginning of the last outbreak?
RA~ I certainly do and the very fact that DEFRA rehearsed a contingency plan in this year, 2004, on a considerable scale, a rehearsal involving very many staff is a reflection of how seriously government is taking preparedness as it were this area - so I'm more confident.  However, I stress that all the scientific issues about vaccination have not been resolved and in an ideal world one like a very, very sensitive and specific diagnostic test that the vet can use in the field and we have made progress in these areas but we are not there totally as yet.
FT~ And does a contiguous cull have any place, do you think,  in a future outbreak?
RA~ I have no doubt that it does.  It depends on the scale of the outbreak, of course.  Looking longer term into the future I really do hope that we have very effective vaccine options that will prevent this sort of contiguous culling.  Instead, one could do perhaps contiguous vaccination