Foot and Mouth Epidemic
By Bernard Jarman

Outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease have recurred at regular intervals since the late nineteenth century. Each time, the disease strain seems to be stronger and more virulent. Despite the success of the UK eradication programme for many year,. infection has once again spread rapidly across the country. Modern agricultural systems are clearly extremely vulnerable to such outbreaks of disease, a fact exacerbated by liberalised trade and the relentless economic pressure on farmers.

As the funeral pyres of countless livestock darken Britain’s skies, we could do well to ponder what we as a nation have inflicted on our domestic animals. Foot and Mouth disease and BSE are not natural disasters but come as a direct consequence of a disregard for the intimate relationships existing between soil, plant, animal and the whole of nature.

Sir Albert Howard, working in India during the 1920’s, experienced how important healthy humus-rich soil is for plant and animal health. In his book Farming & Gardening for Health or Disease, he showed how, through caring for livestock in the best possible way, providing them with healthy, natural food grown on the farm and without using any artificial fertilisers, his animals could be resistant to many of the prevalent diseases including Foot and Mouth. Indeed, so convinced was he of their resilience and health that he allowed his animals to come into contact with infected animals and contaminated pasture. This experiment was repeated 13 years running during which time none of his animals became infected. In his own words, "This long experience of foot and mouth suggests that an important factor in the prevention of animal disease is food from humus filled soil."

Lady Eve Balfour in her book The living Soil confirms this in a reference to an observation made to her by the government veterinary department in the early 1950’s, that outbreaks mapped across Europe indicated that the disease did not spread into areas still being traditionally farmed.

In the Agriculture Course, Rudolf Steiner states." The cow has horns in order to send into itself the astral-ethereal formative powers, which, pressing inward, are meant to penetrate right into the digestive organism. Precisely through the radiation that proceeds from horns and hoofs, much work arises in the digestive organism itself. Anyone who wishes to understand Foot and Mouth disease — that is, the reaction of the periphery on the digestive tract must clearly perceive this relationship. Our remedy for Foot and Mouth disease is founded on this perception".

During many years of extensive research on the nature and treatment of Foot and Mouth disease, Eugen and Lily Kolisko(1) developed a comprehensive picture of it. They came to recognise that the disease has the effect of increasingly separating the animal’s nervous system from the rest of its organism as a result of severe disturbances in the rhythmic (breathing, circulation) system of the animal. As it develops and takes hold the Foot and Mouth virus can attack and eventually destroy the heart.

This illness picture very much supports the findings of Sir Albert Howard in that, due to over stimulation, incorrect feeding, one sided breeding and an overall lack of consideration for the animal’s true nature, the organism loses its living connection to the earth and hence its resistance to the virus.

Following indications given by Rudolf Steiner, the Koliskos went on to develop a remedy for the disease based on coffee. Coffee stimulates metabolism and brain activity and hence a remedy based on it can provide the possibility for counteracting the deadening effect of the virus on the nervous system and redirect the circulation of blood towards the brain. Initial vials showed promising results although with the necessity for repeated intravenous applications it proved extremely time consuming. They also had some success with its prophylactic use.

Other preventative treatments that have had some measure of success in the past, involve stimulating the mucus organs in the animal. Weeping and saliva formation keep the glands of the head active. The feeding of onions and lemons has proved particulady helpful for cattle, as has the use of formic acid formulations released as steam vapours in cow sheds, according to Wolfgang Schaumann, an experienced vet from Germany.

Homeopathic remedies which have been recommended as preventative measures include: Arsenicum, Belladonna and Mercurius, all of which are used in the treatment of skin complaints, sores and ulcers. If administered when the symptoms of dullness and lack of appetite appears, Arsenicum has been repeatedly effective, according to the Pocket Book of Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine (published ca. 1950). Graphites is an effective remedy for hoof sores and may also be helpful as a preventative measure.

The use of Borax 30C was used with some considerable success during the 1967 outbreak. Applied as drops in the drinking water, it helped prevent many farms becoming infected. Its specific action as a remedy is to encourage the excretion of poisons in sores and ulcers and strengthen the mucus forming glands. The recommendation is 5ml in drinking water troughs daily for three days and then twice weekly for the duration of the outbreak.2

Organic and biodynamic farms may have & certain resistance to the disease, but it’s certainly not worth taking any chances since any outbreak must be reported and dealt with in accordance with MAFF eradication policy.

According to MAFF "The disease is rarely fatal, except in the case of very young animals, which may die without showing any symptoms. All affected animals lose condition and secondary bacterial infections may prolong convalescence. The most serious effects of the disease however are seen in dairy cattle. Loss of milk yield, abortion, sterility, chronic mastitis, and chronic lameness are commonplace. There is no cure.

It usually runs its course in 2 or 3 weeks after which the great majoriiy of animals recover naturally, The justification of the slaughter policy is that widespread disease throughout the country would be economically disastrous due to the effects already noted above."

Being organic and biodynamic offers no guarantee for immunity, but a concerted effort to encourage such sustainable practices, along with recognising the efficacy of alternative treatments, would go a long way towards rendering the current policy of wholesale slaughter unnecessary.

Bernard Jarman is a farmer and a member of the Biodynamic Association.


I. Dr. Eugen & Lily Kolisko undertook much research in the fields of biodynamic agriculture and medicine. Their book Agriculture of Tomorrow (currently out of print) contains a detailed account of their research including a fascinating chapter on Foot and Mouth disease.

2. Borax 30C can be obtained from Ainsworths, Cavendish Street, London Tel: 0207 935 5330

It would useful if any experiences using alternative remedies or other observations regarding the outbreak could be sent in for future reference. BDAA. Tel/Fax; 01453 759501.