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“FMD was a disaster”: Lancashire farmers look back 20 years after the deadly outbreak

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A tanker arrived in 2001 with fuel at the Allerton Fold Farm in Withnell near Chorley FMD.
A tanker arrived in 2001 with fuel at the Allerton Fold Farm in Withnell near Chorley FMD.

When foot-and-mouth disease struck a farm in Withnell near Chorley, all his cows and sheep had to be shot. No one spared.

Even for a hardened livestock worker like Phil, it was very painful for him to pack his wife and children in a car for two nights at a hotel and escape the horrific aftermath.

A pile of dead bodies was fired in the fields of Knowles Farm as a team from the Ministry of Agriculture set out to burn animals to contain the highly infectious virus.

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2001 A fire broke out at Knowles Farm in Withnell near Chorley

“I had to keep my family out of the way,” Phil recalled. “We shot everything, and then we got the pass and left while it was on fire.”

Knowles Farm was one of the largest outbreaks of FMD that Britain had never known before in the Withnell region.

The disease, first identified on February 19, 2001, kneeled the country and cost an estimated £ 8 billion in agriculture and tourism.

Cambria was the most devastated county, but in neighboring Lancashire, 44 farms were infected and about 50,000 animals were slaughtered before being put under control more than seven months later.

“It was a disaster at the time,” said Phil, who worked as a manager on a farm on Chorley Road. “Especially when I had a young child at home, I was stressed and very stressed.

“There were 350 cows and about 100 sheep. They all had to be killed. We were covered by insurance. But we were of money for the animals. I only got value, that’s all we got.

“It was good six months before we were able to get up again, and it took a long time to get back to where we were.

“I think the government has learned a lot from it. There’s a lot going on right now.”

The February 2001 outbreak was the second outbreak of the three major foot-and-mouth diseases that struck the United Kingdom in the last half century.

The disease broke out in 1967 in a region along the Wales-Shropshire border, killing 442,000 animals at a cost of £ 370 million. And there was a small outbreak in Surrey in 2007, which was associated with the Pirbright Animal Health Institute.

However, during the 2001 epidemic, more than 2,000 farms were affected, and 843 farms in Cambria alone were affected.

Over 6 million cows and sheep had to be destroyed. The public right to the road across the farmland was closed.

The Lake District tourism economy was hit hard, the Cheltenham Festival of the race was canceled and the general election was returned a month ago from May to June.

Still, despite allegations that foot-and-mouth disease was not successfully dealt with, Tony Blair’s Labor administration was still re-elected for the second term, and the National Farmers’ Union accused the Ministry of Agriculture of acting too late in the early stages of the outbreak.

David Hall, NFU Regional Director of the Northwest, celebrates its 20th anniversary today, said: “God is forbidden, but when FMD returns, the industry’s response is quick, efficient, and robust enough to counteract it for lessons learned.”

The first case of the 2001 epidemic was identified in pigs at the Essex slaughterhouse. Within a month, the disease was widespread and up to 50 new cases were reported daily. So many animals were killed each week (between 80,000 and 93,000) and the army had to be taken to help.

The final incident was reported on September 30, but the restrictions remained for several months.

Due to the absence of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom for more than 30 years before the outbreak and severely restricted meat imports, it is likely that the source in 2001 was illegally imported meat.

Over the next two years, a 2001 research project on the health and social consequences of an outbreak was undertaken, led by Dr. Maggie Mote of Lancaster University. A book based on this study was published in 2008. It is animal disease and human trauma.

What has changed for the farmers?

Since the outbreak of FMD, Dave and Edwina Miller have turned Cobble Hay Farm in Garstang’s Clawton on Block into a popular tourist attraction, actively raising sheep, cattle, pygmy goats and chickens.

The foot-and-mouth disease did not arrive at the farm, but the animals were not allowed to sell, so they had no income for 18 months and had to consider other ways to earn income.

They initially opened the country garden to the public in 2001 and have since expanded its offerings year after year.

Edwina said: “Restructuring was the only way to continue farming.

“I noticed early on that people in the garden were saying,’Where are the animals?’

“We said,’They are outdoors,’ but people wanted them up close.”

A cafe was added in 2004 and now has farms feeding and walking animals, enjoying gardens and wetlands, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, walking paths and encouraging school visits. I am. Teach children about farming life.

The success of diversification over the last two decades is in stark contrast to the difficulties of 2001.

Edwina said:

“For those who got it, it was devastating and had huge losses-a very upset scenario. But the check (from the government) was very good for wiping your tears. ..

“It has created a huge gap in the agricultural community between those who have it and those who do not.

“People are running around with great new trailers. Others have survived 18 months without income because they couldn’t sell their cows, but they still have to feed them. did.”

She added: “When my husband sold cows for the first time after that, he went all the way to Bolton, and he did a little bit for them. Many difficulties continued and there was no government support. Was a crime. At least this time, the pandemic gave me some support. “

Mrs. Miller’s husband and son work on the farm and are now sitting down, but they had to temporarily dismiss the cafe manager and let go of part-time staff.

From March 20, last year, visitors are prohibited from entering.

Mrs. Miller added: “FMD was bad enough, but the coronavirus is present all over the world, and the lack of control is worse than FMD.

“It’s really frustrating and soul-destroying because you’re building relationships with so many groups, and it’s all gone.”

She states: “Like for everyone, it’s definitely time to buy a stake.

“It will be interesting to see how pandemics changed the way people work, like foot-and-mouth disease, ten years from now.”

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