FMD 2001References:


The following comments were offered by a veterinary epidemiologist concerning the UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 2001:

"If angels had taken charge of the UK foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in 2001 they might have had difficulty. Six million animals were slaughtered needlessly because over 80% of the slaughtered animals were disease-free. I was in Czechoslovakia in April 2001 but I'd seen a website where Tony Blair was asking for suggestions on how to improve the country. I contacted the Head of the World Reference Laboratory for Foot-and-Mouth Disease and suggested we might post a few ideas on controlling the epidemic. I was a bit surprised when he said that he'd already seen Nick Brown and Tony Blair the previous week. I was even more surprised to find out that the mathematical modellers were at the same meeting in Downing Street. He faxed me a couple of graphs that the modellers had presented to the Prime Minister, and also a graph that he'd presented at the meeting. His presentation was epidemiologically excellent. The modellers' graphs were visually excellent, yet epidemiologically inaccurate because they were predicting a loss of 97 per cent of animals in the national herds and flocks, and this was poor modelling. On the back of this poor modelling a contiguous culling of herds was implemented and millions of animals were needlessly slaughtered [16]. There was a report that the approach had political objectives."

The President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons reported that the Prime Minister held political objectives in controlling the epidemic quickly: a general election was scheduled for May and the media images of countrywide animal pyres were politically unhelpful [17]. The reported political solution was for the government to apportion culpability to the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food or MAFF [citing incompetent handling of the epidemic], before restructuring the organisation and then rebranding it as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).