August 4, 2007

Britain Faces Agricultural Emergency

An eruption of foot-and-mouth disease among Guilford cattle could portend economic disaster for the UK. Six years ago, a similar eruption ruined the livestock markets in Britain and Ireland and even impacted the tourist trade:

Britain is facing the prospect of a new foot and mouth epidemic after a case of the disease was confirmed for the first time since the disastrous outbreak of 2001.

The Government launched emergency measures after cattle at a farm near Guildford, Surrey, tested positive. All 60 cattle on the farm will be culled.

A nationwide ban on the movement of livestock, including cattle and pigs, was imposed immediately.

In the summer of 2001, our family traveled to Ireland at the height of the last epidemic. Mild travel restrictions had been imposed in the Republic, but in Northern Ireland and Britain (where we did not go), the governments had tougher rules on access, especially in the farmlands. The virus which causes the disease can travel on shoes and clothes, and officials on both sides of the Atlantic feared its spread.

The British consider the 2001 handling an "unmitigated disaster," and for good reason. The British government reacted too slowly to isolate the sick animals. (The Republic of Ireland didn't make that mistake and contained the outbreak effectively.) Over 10 million animals had to be slaughtered, an economic disaster for the British, and their livestock exports got banned in Europe and around the world. Many of those animals were perfectly healthy, but were too close to sick animals to take any chances.

This time, the British have reacted quickly, placing a quarantine for miles around Guilford and stopping all shipments immediately. Their scientists have already started to isolate the particular strain of virus in hope of a vaccine, which the farmers association says their members will fully support. Unfortunately, they still have not confirmed whether the source of the outbreak is within the containment zone, and until they do, British farmers will be holding their collective breath.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (4)

Posted by Ray | August 4, 2007 4:27 PM

It seems that Briton's cattle industry is always facing one disaster after another. They should adopt American ranching techniques as we rarely have these type of epidemics. It is apparent that their techniques are inadequate and need to be changed.

Posted by Rick Skeean | August 4, 2007 4:42 PM

I seem to recall that one problem with vaccination the last time this happened was that the test doesn't distinguish between an innoculated animal and a sick animal. Maybe there have been improvements since then.

Posted by ChrisO | August 4, 2007 5:42 PM

That's Guildford, with a D...

Posted by Adjoran | August 5, 2007 12:42 PM

Apparently the infection came from a nearby bio-research facility.

It seems the lab was as leaky as our own nuclear labs under Bill Richardson . . .

Post a comment