Foot and mouth disease

Here in Britain we’ll never forget how ten million animals were slaughtered when foot and mouth disease (FMD) spread through sheep, cattle, goats and pigs in 2001-2. We saw horrifying images of mass pyres burning the carcases. The disease broke out again in 2007. We’re now officially FMD-free here but it remains a notifiable disease.

I feel sick remembering the 2001-2 FMD epidemic. Our farmers faced export restrictions. In my own partner’s family, a dairy herd built up over four human generations was shot in a single day because the next-door neighbour’s animals got FMD.

It’s far from certain that the spread of FMD was handled well. What was done, was done, but I’ve heard experts at academic conferences say that it wasn’t done well. You can read opinion written about it in 2004 here.

FMD hasn’t been eradicated. Far from it. It’s still taken very seriously throughout the world, wherever cloven-hoofed animals are found. Today my fellow blogger petrel41 said that FMD has been found in wild sheep on the Tibetan plateau.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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4 Responses to Foot and mouth disease

  1. skezier says:

    Your OH’s family were just so unlucky to be in the wrong area and it mus have been so hard for you all actually.

    I am in Cornwall and we were so lucky that the prevailing winds didn’t change direction and also for the Tamer as Devon was so, so bad.

    I tend to come in from the humane/ welfare side a lot but with the ’01 FMD outbreak that went out the window and it just became a real siege here. We had D orders all around and the fire over the back was so graffic and near but thankfully they were all culled as a precaution… they didn’t actually have it. I think, given the connection they had with the worst infected farms in Devon we were all surprised (and so relived) they didn’t as that would have been my girls gone as well.

    My sheep are not in the meat chain and well my eldest was 2 in ’01 and I am so glad I still have her and have had a chance to really get to know her all this time as it was looking so unlikely back then.

    The reason it was badly handled was possible not so simple though as the original outbreak was left unreported and undiscovered for (I think it was) 10 days….. With all the movements that happened in that time its small wonder it went so far afield and at least the new transport and movement measures should prevent it in that scale again. Especially the rule about animals now having to be held for 21days at the place of arrival. If you think it got the length and breadth of the UK with so few initial sheep being brought it shows how the old system did lend its self to an epidemic.

    Oh they were such dark and fearful days and I hope it never happens again as well as really hope you OH’s family were able to recover and move on from such a devastating day. x

  2. Pingback: New vaccine against foot and mouth disease | Science on the Land

  3. Pingback: Vaccines for livestock and people | Science on the Land

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