Footpaths and roads have been closed to restrict movement in the Protection and Surveillance zones
British farmers are again facing the prospect of a major Foot and Mouth epidemic, hoping that lessons were learned in 2001 and the monumental incompetence displayed then by the Blair Brown regime will not be repeated in 2007.
In 2001 the centre for the outbreak was in Essex, North East of London. The new outbreak is centered to the South West of London
In 2001, an outbreak of FMD spread rapidly through the British farms because the Blair Brown regime did not understand how the industry functioned and were slow to learn. This led to almost seven million animals being slaughtered and the death of a number of farmers through suicide and stress-related illness.
In 2001 bungled attempts to bring the outbreak under control created the image of a holocaust, with clouds of choking black smoke drifting across the countryside, with cremation temperatures claimed to be too low to kill all of the virus
Animals were slaughtered on the farms and left in mounds for days, awaiting disposal. In may cases, farmers had to live with their dead animals stacked up outside their homes, only to then witness them being burned on open fires which were claimed to have further spread the contagion.
Eventually, the situation was saved by the Army. Soldiers took over the responsibility for collecting and disposing of carcasses and rapidly brought the situation under control.
Scottish Prime Minister, non-elect, Gordon Brown was keen to profit from the 2001 FMD epidemic and is now portraying himself as the only person in charge of containing this new outbreak
One of the least edifying sights was the squabbling between Blair and Brown over the forthcoming General Election dates. Blair wanted to delay the Election until the FMD outbreak was under control. Brown wanted to stick to the original dates and disenfranchise those in rural areas who would be unable to attended polling station because of movement controls introduced to contain the outbreak.
This time round, there is another General Election looming and party political considerations may once again be foremost in Brown’s mind.
If the outbreak does escalate out of control, there will not be available troops to deal with the situation because they are already seriously over stretched, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although the first priority should be to deal with the FMD outbreak, the Blair Brown regime spin doctors are already busy trying to point the blame for the outbreak at someone else.
The likely suspect is a research centre that handles dangerous viruses, including FMD. There are already claims that serious failures in biosecurity at the site were responsible for the airborne release of the virus. The site is occupied by a Government funded research facility and also by a commercial research unit.
As the incubation period for the virus is fourteen days in cattle, and a shorter period usually in sheep, farmers will have to wait at least two more weeks before they know the outbreak has been contained. Each new confirmed outbreak will extend the period. During this time, the production of meat and milk will be seriously affected across Britain and there will be no export of these products. This comes at a time when weather conditions have already badly affected crops, including hay for animal feed.
Anxious to reduce public concern and damage to the agricultural economy, the Government is talking of relaxing restrictions early. It is claimed that this will reduce the risk of farmers breaking control orders and has been welcomed by some farmers. Critics suggest that this may be the first sign of a government putting spin before effective containment and seeking populist solutions.