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The fear of Foot & Mouth

The Foot & Mouth outbreak inevitably sent a shiver down my spine, as I assume it did anyone who was involved in the last outbreak in 2001.

I was working on Shooting Gazette in 2001 and I vividly recall the damage that it did to the countryside. Who can forget the images of mass slaughter in counties like Cumbria. Livestock farming communities were devastated and the countryside was quite literally closed.

The 2001 outbreak first struck in February and had mostly been eradicated by the time the next shooting season started but not before it had caused huge damage.

That year the CLA Game Fair was due to be held at Woburn and I had interviewed Lord Howland, as he was then, about the upcoming event. He was understandably looking forward to it. But, with FMD, came the news that Woburn could not risk hosting the Game Fair with their many species of deer and Safari Park. So with 10 weeks till the event it was re-assigned to nearby Shuttleworth.

I visited that site soon after the decision was made and I will always be full of admiration for the team that took it from that state of complete unreadiness to being able to host the Game Fair in a mere 10 weeks. Incidentally within a couple of years Lord Howland’s grandfather and father both passed away, thereby rapidly catapulting him to the title of the Duke of Bedford.

Following the news of the 2001 outbreak there were great fears that the shooting season would not happen but in the end it did go ahead and while bio-security measures were needed it was not a bad season.

At present we don’t know what scale this outbreak will reach and, although I hope it is confined, experience tells us not to relax too early! And with the new season round the corner further outbreaks could be severely detrimental.

I’m sure I am not the only one wondering exactly what is going through the mind of vegetarian Environment Secretary Hilary Benn as he tries to deal with an emotive issue surrounding the slaughter of cattle and the state of the British meat industry.