DEFRA’s (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - the new name for MAFF) web site, www.defra.gov.uk, reveals appalling statistics however by stating that this year 3,915,000 animals have been slaughtered at 9,500 sites around the UK. These figures break down to 601,000 cattle, 3,170,000 sheep, 139,000 pigs, 3,000 goats, 1,000 deer and 1,000 other animals.
Whilst no further outbreaks have been recorded for October it still has to be noted that there were 51 new outbreaks recorded in the UK, outwith Scotland, in September. NEMT colleagues, returning only last week from the Lake District, advised they were still required to drive through disinfectant stations. Vigilant common sense must clearly still be practised at all times when moving between infected and non-infected areas.
The effects of Foot and Mouth will be felt throughout the UK by the farmers and by rural tourism for years to come. The disease has also highlighted several of the environmental issues that are currently under the spotlight. For example Foot and Mouth has an immediate and direct effect on the rights of access issues included in the draft Land Reform Bill currently under review. As covered in NEMT’s response to the draft Land Reform Bill, which we are circulating with this issue, the public response to the restrictions placed on visiting the countryside was phenomenal.
In Scotland especially, we have to be careful to make the distinction between at least the highland estates so popular for hill-walkers and the more intensely farmed lower lying areas. Whilst the visiting public stayed away in their droves from the total countryside it has to be noted there were many causes for concern where local dog walkers were continuing to exercise their dogs in intensely farmed areas. It has also been noted some estate owners have been leaving up their “Foot and Mouth Keep Out” signs longer than is necessary, apparently using this as an excuse to curb the public access. In Scotland the overall financial losses created by Foot and Mouth are recognised as being far greater in the rural tourism sector than the farming sector. The farmers have been receiving compensations for the beasts they have had destroyed whilst the businesses concerned in rural tourism have received no compensation for their losses.
These are all critical issues which are very live, not only in the cauldron of draft Land Reform Bill, but which will serve to reshape the rural environment of the future. Whilst Foot and Mouth has been a dreadful lesson in what can go so quickly and so seriously wrong it also serves to underline the importance of maintaining active participation in the ongoing debates on the sustainability of our countryside.
Jennifer A Cook, 21st October, 2001
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