Foot and Mouth Disease 2001

Foot and Mouth Disease 2001


In March 23rd 2001 I was appointed the Green Party's Foot and Mouth Disease Campaign Co-ordinator, and was very active in advocating vaccination instead of the barbaric, crude, and unscientific slaughter policy pursued by the then Misistry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In August 2001 I realised that the Government was going to pursue its policy irrespective of any rational arguments relating to science, humanity - or even economics - and I am ashamed to say that I gave up at that point - emotionally exhausted and burnt out. For a long time I was unable to even look at an article or paper relating to the topic. Later I complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman relating to letters and questions unanswered by MAFF officials; the reply was inadequate, but I could not pursue it.

In the end the pro-vaccination lobby's stance was vindicated, as official policy is now to use ring vaccination when the next Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak occurs. I am not sanguine. It is to be expected that the authorities will foul up the vaccination programme, declare that it is not working, and start the slaughter all over again.

In the campaign, I was writing to the papers, writing about the health effects of disposal, writing to my MP, and to Tony Blair, phoning Government Departments, and have had stories on TV, on radio, and in the newspapers.

The main success was in breaking the story about the risk of spreading BSE/vCJD (letter) (mad cow disease) through the burial and burning of carcasses.

I have written poems about the FMD fiasco, and, when it became clear that MAFF/DeFRA was impervious to reason, even some jokes.. .

Unfortunately, I had no response whatsoever from Tony Blair or Nick Brown to my letters, despite requests made through my MP, on the questions I have raised; this led to a complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, but even so, they failed to address the questions put to them.

This is an affront to democracy, and the Labour Party should be held to account for the failure of their Government.

Here is the essence of the argument:


  • Foot & Mouth Disease is a viral illness, usually mild in mature sheep and moderately unpleasant for some cattle. It depresses the profitability of the animal for a while afterward.
  • The horrific problems of FMD arise not from the disease, but from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF)s 19th century approach to disease control by mass slaughter of healthy animals ringing an outbreak.
  • The modern alternative ring vaccination is effective and cheap (it costs 1 to vaccinate a cow, 1400 to kill and dispose of it).
  • MAFF has consistently misled the media and the public about vaccination.
  • MAFF makes much of the fact that a vaccinated herd will have some carriers of the virus. In fact, cheap modern tests can distinguish between carriers and non-carriers.
  • Ironically, MAFFs strategy causes much more disease spread than vaccinated carriers and ramblers. Burning spreads the virus in the smoke, and the road journey to rendering plants and burial sites scatters infected materials into clean areas.
  • The disposal of millions of carcasses gives rise to intolerable air and water pollution.
  • Pyre smoke contains dioxins and PAHs (Cancer causing agents),SO2, particulates (asthma and heart disease). Worse, MAFF have seriously underestimated the risk of spreading BSE and vCJD from the fires.
  • MAFFs policy is ineffective, traumatic, polluting, expensive, immoral, cruel and wrong. The Green Party, along with many other organisations calls for.


Maff's arguments are specious and fallacious

The argument about meat exports is empty. The value is trivial compared to the total cost of the slaughter operation. And many experts hold that vaccination could have brought back our exports more quickly. Why should a handful of exporting farmers hold the country to ransom?

It is up to each and every one of us to resist the shame that MAFF has brought on our country. You can help by:

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on April 28, 2003