The BVA has marked the 15th anniversary of the devastating foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the UK by asking the Government to reflect on the “vital role of vets and veterinary surveillance in protecting the UK against disease”.

Millions of sheep, pigs, and cows were slaughtered and burned during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK.

The call comes in the face of November’s autumn statement where Defra was asked to make a further 15% budget cut.

Financial and emotional impact

The FMD outbreak was confirmed in an abattoir on 19 February 2001 and eventually involved the slaughter of more than six million animals, causing dire emotional and financial impacts on farmers, vets and rural businesses.

Vets from across the profession, including those not working with livestock, were called upon to assist with disease control.

BVA president Sean Wensley said: “Fifteen years on from the devastation of the 2001 outbreak, the UK must remain vigilant for FMD, but important lessons learned mean we are now better prepared if another outbreak does occur.”

No room for complacency

Sean Wensley
BVA president Sean Wensley.

“Today we would have an immediate standstill on livestock movements, improved traceability systems and the possibility of using vaccination as part of the overall control strategy,” he said. “But we cannot be complacent and the anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the vital role of vets and veterinary surveillance in protecting the UK from disease.

“In recent years, we have seen the impact of significant cuts to Defra’s budget on veterinary fees for TB testing and other official veterinarian services. Vets’ frontline roles must be recognised and supported, backed up by an effective, coordinated system of data capture that will enable us to make the necessary links to detect and control new disease threats.

“We can never be free from the risk of disease and the emergence of Schmallenberg and re-emergence of bluetongue have brought new challenges. It is essential we have the coordination and capability to identify and diagnose in order to protect our national herd and flock.”

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