Filed Oct. 19, 2001

We have now had 16 days without a confirmed outbreak. Praise be – after eight terrible months, the outbreak could be over.

To recap, the appalling blunders made by our Government and the Ministry of Agriculture bureaucrats at the top (the people at the front-line of the outbreak however did sterling work) have lessons for everyone in the world.

  • The important report and recommendations published in 1969 after our last major outbreak were largely ignored or forgotten.
  • There was a fatal 5 day delay in freezing all animal movements, thus guaranteeing our local sheep market system spread the disease across the country like wildfire.
  • As a result the authorities, veterinarians, diagnostic laboratories, valuers and slaughter teams were totally overwhelmed, but the Ministry refused to admit for three weeks that the outbreak was out of control and rejected help.
  • Eventually the army was called in to help, but 3 weeks too late. (The 1969 report said call them in on Day 1.) They got control of the logistics, but it was still an uphill battle to contain it.
  • Slaughtered animals were left for days unattended and then the huge funeral pyres outraged the public. (The 1969 report said when possible bury on site, not burn, don’t move carcases around.)
  • Affected farm disinfection contracts were handed out with little control, resulting in abuse and profiteering. Once this was evident amazingly the Government refused to pay for any cleaning down at all for a whole week. The confusion jeopardised the control measures.
  • Even now the import of banned meat products is nowhere as strict in Britain as it is in Australia and N. America for example. Disgraceful!
  • Now, at the hopeful conclusion of the outbreak, the Government refuses to hold a public enquiry where those responsible are forced to give evidence on oath. Instead it is holding 3 of its own ‘investigations’ in camera! This has resulted in no fewer than 5 other regional enquiries to try to get at the truth and learn lessons. Already one has been held but the Ministry declined to send representatives to answer questions on their actions. The public is highly cynical of the whole investigative affair.

So what should the US do?

  1. Study our incompetent actions/lack of action and ensure your politicians and bureaucrats cannot go down the same paths.
  2. Redouble your efforts to keep FMD out.
  3. Have contingency plans in place at Federal and Local levels. This is absolutely essential.
  4. Ensure the State and private veterinary services have contingency plans and facilities in place.
  5. Ensure that your clever lawyers cannot obstruct these essential emergency measures which will seem draconian and appear to curtail civil liberties at the time. So get advance legislation in place beforehand of what must be done, or prohibited as the case may be.
  6. Study the whole question of ring-vaccination v. slaughter.
  7. Keep the animals’ welfare to the fore by making sensible humane decisions, not taking blanket pigeon-hole decisions willy-nilly as bureaucrats do. If not, your public may crucify livestock farming.
  8. In our case movement of people and vehicles kept the long tail alive.


Farewell from a bruised and battered farming Britain! The final cost? Looks like $325 for every man, woman and child. It could have been a tenth of the cost and agony, had the authorities been prepared, or had even taken notice of crucial recommendations which, with hindsight, now seemed to be dead correct!