An evaluation of the current control policy from a historical perspective
By Abigail Woods MA MSc VetMB MRCVS
PhD student in the History of FMD in 20th Century Britain
Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine,
Manchester University.


History is commonly used as a resource by MAFF to justify the policy of FMD
control by slaughter. The adherence to the same policy for 100 years and its
supposed on going efficacy provide considerable authority for its continual
application, despite the fact that the disease appears increasingly out of

If the time has arrived to examine whether slaughter should continue, then
these historical certainties also require questioning. The past not only
offers guidance where similar situations appear in the present, but also
reveals profound differences which suggest that direct parallels cannot
always be drawn between past and present.

Two years' research using original documents have contributed to the
following comments:

Slaughter has never been the obvious response to FMD. Far from being
demanded by the facts of the disease, complex ongoing negotiations were
necessary in order to introduce and maintain government control over FMD.
The rationale behind this decision was largely tied to the economic,
commercial and agricultural conditions of the 19th century. It cannot
therefore be simply assumed that this past decision still holds, as at the
very least its rationale must have changed to keep pace with the changing
understanding of FMD and alterations in agriculture and world trade

The fact that slaughter has always eliminated FMD has contributed to the
authority of the policy. In fact, in several situations this stamping out
has taken months if not years, with profound personal and economic costs
which are not generally publicised. On such occasions, criticisms of
slaughter have arisen, many of which are equally relevant today. Here I
examine how from past evidence, this present outbreak was always likely to
reach this scale and that therefore the many problems generated by slaughter
in the past are likely to be re-experienced. I also explain who has voiced
these criticisms and why. This data forms a strong argument for
reconsidering the proposed intensification of slaughter.

The authority of slaughter is such that MAFF firmly believes that there is
no other way to manage FMD, especially given the technical and
administrative problems with vaccines. Here I examine why MAFF is mistaken
in this certainty which is largely grounded in past successes, and explore
deeper reasons why vaccination is not favoured.

1) Slaughter has never been the obvious response to FMD.

state control of FMD
FMD first appeared in 1839 yet despite initial reaction was largely ignored
for the next 30 years. The disease was common, extremely mild in relation to
other prevalent diseases and provoked few efforts at control. FMD was an
accepted and indeed expected occupational hazard.

FMD control by the state occurred almost as an afterthought. Attention was
primarily directed to preventing importation and spread of highly fatal
livestock ailments such as cattle plague. FMD control by movement
restrictions was merely tagged on to legislation aimed at controlling these
much more serious diseases.

Many veterinarians, farmers and MPs rejected the need to control FMD, upon
the basis that firstly the disease was not severe enough and that losses due
to legislative 'cure' would outweigh those inflicted by the disease itself.
Secondly they doubted if it were possible, stating that FMD could spread by
wildlife and people, which could not be controlled as easily as infected

Influential breeders, often MPs and Royal Agricultural Society
representatives, led the lobby for FMD elimination. They suffered most
economic losses due to the disease - their valuable young livestock suffered
higher than average mortality and occasional abortions and mastitis also
inflicted losses.

Quantification of FMD losses was as important resource in the drive for FMD
elimination. Various farming witnesses to Parliamentary Commissions put
forward their empirical estimates of financial losses caused by the disease.
These were expressed in terms of extra feed consumed, reduction in milk
production or extra time required to make market weight. In 1871 the disease
was made notifiable, and by multiplying disease incidence by these estimates
if became possible to express FMD losses on a national scale for the first
time. These contributed to the desire to eliminate the disease because it
seemed obvious that FMD affected the meat supply, and meat consumption by
the working classes was believed necessary to increase their working
efficiency. This stimulated urban, capitalist demands for FMD control.
Successful efforts to intensify FMD controls were unsuccessful. This meant
that many farmers experienced movement and marketing restrictions which
therefore became inseparably linked with FMD. Because of these measures,
farmers began to dread FMD and demand its elimination. By the 1880s
therefore, the battle over whether FMD should be subject to state-led
elimination was won. The framework for today's FMD controls were in place;
imports of livestock from FMD infected countries were prohibited (most
European nations sending livestock to Britain had FMD); disease spread was
halted by isolation of infected and contact animals; markets and movement
restrictions were imposed within large infected areas. Whether these
measures worked or the disease disappeared on its own is unknown, but
Britain was remarkably free of FMD from 1884-1900.


Therefore the original desire to eliminate FMD was driven by the following

State controls of other contagious diseases were necessary and therefore the
framework for FMD regulation existed.

Breeders perceiving FMD as a disease inflicting severe economic losses upon
their valuable stock. Breeders had the political power to impress these
notions upon others.

Capitalist fear that reduction in the meat supply by FMD would spark civil
unrest and reduce workers' productivity levels

Most other farmers perceiving FMD as a disease inflicting severe
restrictions upon the marketing and movement of stock.

It is obvious therefore that the decision to control FMD occurred within a
society very different to the present, especially in terms of where the
political power lay and in the beliefs about the value of meat consumption.

b) State slaughter for FMD

Official histories state that slaughter was 1st introduced in 1884. This
required qualification; while an act was passed in 1884 enabling local
authorities to apply slaughter if they wished, this was only used once in
the next 20 years.

Slaughter was actually introduced 'by the back door' at a time when disease
incidence was low, using the rationale that this would most rapidly
eliminate disease before it had chance to spread. The imposition of British
import controls in the 1880s encouraged many other FMD free nations such as
the US and Australia to follow suit. This affected the British export trade,
which solely consisted of British pedigree cattle owned by the same set of
influential breeders. This small trade was nonetheless extremely valuable
and therefore the drive to keep the country clear of FMD was repeatedly
asserted by these breeders. However, when disease struck these pedigree
herds were exempted of slaughter, with the Ministry stating that they were
too valuable to the nation to merit destruction. An ulterior motive was the
fact that the cost of compensation was such that slaughter could only have
stimulated opposition to the policy

The Ministry persuaded the majority of farmers who were not involved in the
export trade that slaughter was vital by portraying FMD as a disease which
would inflict severe economic losses were it allowed to run. This fact was
repeated every time FMD appeared. The 19th century estimates of losses
inflicted by FMD were used as evidence, as were high loss estimates from the
continent, where FMD was endemic. These figures were contrasted to low
average annual costs to MAFF of disease elimination by slaughter. However,
such statistics are extremely questionable: the method of loss estimation on
the continent was never described. In addition, costs to MAFF do not portray
the often substantial consequential losses inflicted by FMD upon the farmer
and meat trader. The 19thC estimates were themselves extremely empirical and
no controlled experiments have been undertaken to properly quantify the
reduction in productivity of an FMD recovered animal.

The original rationale for discriminate slaughter during the period
1900-1920 was supposedly to rapidly eliminate new invasions of FMD, and this
was largely successful; outbreaks were contained quickly and costs kept low.
However, in 1922 (as in the present case), disease spread through an
infected market yet was not notified for several days, by which time it was
already widespread. This was an entirely new context for the application of
slaughter and certainly not one which the original framers of the slaughter
policy had foreseen or intended.


This evidence undermines the authority of the state policy for control of
FMD by slaughter. This was not the 'obvious' response to this disease.
Slaughter of FMD was introduced almost by default in order to rapidly
eliminate new outbreaks, and again by default was extended to the control of
already-raging epidemics. Pressure for the continuation of this policy was
not driven by far-sighted, intelligent men but by an influential group who
manipulated their political power in order to preserve their personal
economic interests.

It is important to realise that animal welfare arguments were never part of
the discussions upon FMD control. This was always purely and simply an
economic issue. However, given the draconian methods of control and the fact
that under slaughter, none were able to encounter the disease at first hand
it is unsurprising that the disease came to be viewed as a terrible event,
largely divorced from its biological effects. The present argument upon
welfare grounds was merely to make slaughter a 'politically acceptable' move
given the wider criticisms brewing against highly intensive, economically
efficient farming systems. It is now exposed as a fallacy given that many
sheep have supposedly suffered the disease without drawing notice to

However, arguments about the effect of FMD upon the export trade have become
more cogent over time, as since WWII and especially with recent trade
developments within the EU and under the WTO, exports of British meat
products have radically increased. As such, the majority of the farming
community now possesses the same interests originally held by the few
pedigree livestock breeders. Meanwhile, trade barriers erected against
nations infected by FMD have intensified. Therefore despite the still highly
questionable long-term economic effects of allowing FMD to become endemic,
this is simply not an option and in terms of international trade, the need
to eliminate FMD is greater than ever before.

If FMD elimination is required on economic grounds, then the veracity of the
current approach is based upon the fact that elimination of disease by
slaughter costs less than the long-term loss of the export market. If this
ceases to be the case, then the policy should be reviewed and alternatives
explored. It may be, for example, that the huge costs involved in the
intensified cull outweigh the costs of the longer export ban which would
result from vaccination.

2) The past 'success' of slaughter requires qualification

FMD outbreaks occurred repeatedly throughout the 20th century, with rarely a
disease free year until 1969. In many years there were very few outbreaks
and slaughter effectively and rapidly eliminated disease.

On other occasions however, control was not so efficient and while FMD was
eventually stamped out, many animals lost their lives and the costs were
huge, both in terms of MAF compensation, farmers' consequential losses and
the overall psychological impact of the slaughter policy. History reveals
that opposition to the slaughter policy was most marked in these years. The
1922-24, outbreak effectively lasted 2 years, despite a few weeks of disease
freedom in 1923. In 1951-52 disease elimination took almost a year, and the
1967-68 outbreak lasted 8 months. While slaughter can be said to have
'worked,' the Ministry generally overlooks the events of these years and
dismisses the criticisms that emerged as unfounded and ignorant. In 1924, a
severe revolt by Cheshire farmers meant that MAFF was forced to allow the
isolation of several herds rather than slaughter. In 1968, MAFF was on the
verge of vaccination given the rapid spread of disease. Only the down-turn
in notifications prevented this strategy going ahead. Slaughter has
therefore not always been as successful as MAFF claims.

The argument that slaughter is a totally inappropriate means of controlling
FMD has always been an extreme minority position. Certainly in the present
for the economic reasons stated above, few would dispute the fact that
slaughter is a vital first line of defence against FMD

A more valid criticism is that slaughter, whilst in theory effective and the
best means of controlling disease, is inappropriate to the control of
widespread FMD. This point deserves consideration in the present situation.
Arguments which have historic roots yet are applicable to the present

Ever since this policy was introduced, MAF recognised that the rapid
notification of disease was vital in order to effectively control disease
spread. This required farmers to have a high index of suspicion that
symptoms observed in their stock may be FMD, always a problem when FMD had
been absent for a long period and compounded by the fact that symptoms are
not always obvious. This fact stimulated intense efforts by the NFU and MAFF
to 'educate' farmers of FMD symptoms.

Historically, the failure to rapidly detect FMD has led to diseased animals
inadvertently infecting markets and transit vehicles, resulting in a sudden
'explosion' of FMD throughout the nation, presenting extreme tracing
difficulties. The frequent movement of livestock through markets by dealers
was recognised in 1922 as compounding this problem.

The logistical problems presented by rapid spread of disease are well
recognised. (Cheshire in 1924 and 1967.) Problems of manpower and supplies
can prevent the rapid follow-up, diagnosis, slaughter and destruction of
infected animals. These problems have been commonly cited by critics as
permitting the ongoing spread of FMD and have also been recognised by
government inquiries into FMD outbreaks (Pretyman Committee, 1924 and
Northumberland enquiry, 1969.) Animals are at their most infective while
incubating disease, therefore if symptoms are present in only a few animals,
their contacts are likely to manufacturing large quantities of virus and if
not slaughtered immediately pose a dangerous risk. Even once slaughtered,
virus can survive in parts of the carcass, in buildings and be carried by
wildlife. If disinfection and carcass disposal is not rapid and efficient,
this poses additional routes for disease spread. When resources are
extremely stretched, the Ministry appears at best able at best to keep up
with the disease and has extreme difficulty overtaking and halting its

When large-scale slaughter has occurred and yet disease is still spreading,
opposition has frequently been directed to the sheer scale of the
destruction. The Ministry tends to counteract this by stating that the
percentage of livestock killed in national terms is extremely low. This is
an attempt to disguise the fact that in certain regions, percentages are
huge - 33% of Cheshire cattle in 1923-24 and 1967-68. In these cases,
farmers argued that disease controls had failed, and that elimination only
occurred because there were no longer any livestock left to infect. In
addition, the psychological effects of large-scale slaughter become
widespread and while not quantifiable are extremely pervasive. Critics also
assert the immorality of slaughtering huge numbers of animals (especially
breeding stock not destined for the butcher in the near future) when
alternative disease controls are available (see below.)

The cost of compensating for large-scale slaughter is huge. The Ministry has
always attempted to overcome these criticisms by expressing compensation in
terms of annual averages over a number of years. It also repeatedly states
that the cost of slaughter is worthwhile given the economic losses inflicted
by the stoppage of British exports. A cost-benefit study undertaken as part
of the enquiry into the 1967-68 epidemic is repeatedly cited as stating that
slaughter was the cheapest and preferred method of disease control.† In fact
the authors of this admitted to a number of major methodological problems
encountered with this technique (p574) including the difficulty of
quantifying factors such as the uncertainty and stress which the slaughter
policy imposed upon farmers. (p594)

† AP Power and S Harris, 'A Cost-Benefit Evaluation of Alternative Control
Policies for Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Great Britain.' J Agri Econ 24
(1973), 573-600

Historically, the NFU executive has always supported MAFF in the decision to
slaughter. However, at grass roots levels there has been considerable
dissent, but regional opinions are often discarded by HQ. The NFU supposedly
represents many different branches of farming throughout the nation. Yet
regional variations in farming practices and the fact that all branches of
farming do not share the same interests means that the task of representing
farmers as a whole is extremely difficult. Since the 1920s, the NFU has been
recognised by MAFF as the foremost farming representative body and has been
involved in many complex negotiations in order to gain overall state
benefits for the industry. Small wonder therefore that the NFU does not wish
to divorce itself from its benefactors in response to criticism arising from
a proportion of farmers.

The British Veterinary Association has always shown similar alliances,
despite grass roots objections to slaughtering. Again however, one must bear
additional interests in mind. The veterinary profession has gained
considerably in status over the years, not least as a result of state
recognition as experts in the fields of research and public health. MAFF has
been used as a vehicle in the past by the CVO to expand the veterinary role
and reward systems.

Members of the medical profession have historically been involved in major
criticisms of the slaughter policy. For obvious reasons, doctors tend to
rely on therapy and vaccination for disease control and this reliance on
scientific, laboratory-formulated measures has shaped criticisms of a
supposedly backward and barbaric slaughter policy. However, medical
criticisms have been repeatedly rejected by farmers and vets upon the basis
that doctors are only experts in the field of human disease and have no role
to play in the management of livestock problems. It is important not to
overlook the fact that certainly prior to WWII, medics and vets were
competing for 'territory' in terms of which profession should be responsible
for meat/milk inspection and for research into animal diseases.


The above reveals that the present situation is not entirely new, though
unprecedented in the scale of slaughter proposed. The history of past
outbreaks reveals that initial delay in notification and infection of
several markets by dealers have been vital factors permitting FMD to evade
control by slaughter and leading to extremely widespread disease. This
perhaps points to the fact that the present scale of this outbreak could
have been predicted as these facts came to light.

It also reveals that while criticisms against the principle of slaughter as
an initial means of disease control have little justification, there are
many objections, voiced historically but none the less relevant today, to
the continuation of large-scale slaughter once the disease is widespread.
Not least of these is the logistical problem of efficiently implementing the
slaughter policy upon a large scale. Farms affected now by FMD are far
larger than in 1967 therefore the system of slaughter and disposal is more
rapidly overwhelmed and the problems associated are therefore more pressing.
Opposition to slaughter tends to be written out of history, precisely
because the individuals concerned are not always the most prominent or
influential. However I can guarantee that it situations such as the present,
when FMD is widespread and slaughter of questionable efficacy, there has
always been considerable opposition to its continuation. It is important to
recognise that external interests will always influence the positions
individuals adopt upon the slaughter policy. Farmers may wish to keep their
animals, but is this any worse a motive that the desire for personal
economic or professional gain?

3) Why the historical authority of slaughter and rejection of Vaccination
are inappropirate responses

Authority of slaughter

Britain has always been intensely proud of her ability to abolish disease.
Our island status has meant that several diseases, once eliminated by
stamping out have been permanently kept out of the country eg cattle plague,
sheep pox, rabies. This geographical 'difference' has been continually
emphasised as reason why disease elimination is achievable in Britain but
rather more difficult elsewhere, and has been used by MAFF to justify the
rejection of preferred continental means of disease control in favour of a
stamping out policy. However, this 'island' status has been increasingly
undermined by the expansion of free European and world trade and widespread
tourism. This encourages the introduction of 'foreign' substances into
Britain. Powers to restrict such moves are extremely limited and inspection
as a means of control can never be 100%. The confidence in British isolation
and its implications for disease control measures is therefore less
justified than in the past.

In addition the conditions within the nation have undergone profound
changes. Farm size and livestock holdings have vastly increased throughout
the 20thC whilst the number involved in agriculture has plummeted.
Agri-business has forced smaller producers out of the market while economies
of scale and meat marketing practices have encouraged the nationwide
movement of livestock. Indeed, a critic of slaughter in the 1950s uses the
very same reasoning to support a call for alternative disease control
measures. While cattle passports, the smaller number of individuals involved
and IT advances should assist livestock tracing these are counterbalanced by
the sheer numbers of stock involved.

Not only has the entire context for FMD control changed, but the disease
itself has been 'reinterpreted' in the light of novel epidemiological
findings. In the 19thC, inconvenient FMD controls were eventually accepted
due to the widespread belief that simple prohibition of diseased imports
would keep the disease out of Britain. Yet the disease still appeared -
foreign hay and straw was banned in 1908 after an outbreak was linked to
this source. The 1920s saw prohibition of continental meat imports and the
imposition of stringent controls on the Argentine as meat was recognised as
a vehicle of the virus. Swill boiling regulations were introduced at this
time. At the same time, human movement in 1922-24 was linked to disease
spread between farms and research in the 1920s and 30s investigated the
potential role of wildlife, including birds, in epidemiological spread of
disease. Yet still, FMD kept appearing and spreading despite all these
additional precautions, highlighting its extreme contagiousness and virtual
impossibility in sealing off all routes of disease spread. The recognition
in 1968 that air currents could carry the virus is the ultimate example of
how resistant this virus is to man-made restrictions. If these complexities
were realised at first, it is doubtful that legislative efforts and
slaughter would ever have been thought appropriate to FMD management.
However, it is confidence borne out of past successes against FMD which is
spurring MAF to persist in slaughter and to repeatedly reject alternative
measures. This confidence is misplaced; FMD has indeed been eliminated in
the past but the world has changed and the past is no guarantee of future
success. Despite many additional disease controls, no amount of regulation
can control air or wildlife spread of FMD and disinfection of people and
vehicles is primitive and largely useless. The changing conditions of
agricultural and international trade during the last fifty years can only
assist this virus in its spread around the globe.

Rejection of Vaccines

The notion that Britain could eliminate FMD by slaughter meant that while
publicly, MAFF expressed hopes that a vaccine would emerge from Pirbright
(the FMD research lab set up in 1924) in private the CVO stated that
vaccines would find no application on British soil. However, he considered
that any scientific advances in disease control could be useful in areas
where the disease was endemic, such as South America and Europe, since this
would reduce the possibility of disease importation into Britain from these

The fact that FMD is such a contagious virus justified the restriction of
research, at least on large animals, to Pirbright and with workers employed
under the FMD Research Committee, over which MAFF had a huge degree of
influence. This made it impossible for independent researchers to
investigate the disease and formulate alternative measures for its control.
The Ministry's stance meant that there was no sense of urgency in the
British hunt for a vaccine, and most initial progress took place on the
continent, when since the 1920s, serum was used for treatment and prevention
of disease. Only when war contingency planning was undertaken in 1937 did
the threat of FMD come to light, both in its potential as a biological
weapon and the fact that given wartime meat shortages, there may be more
vigorous opposition to slaughter. This spurred British vaccine research.
By the early 1950s, vaccines were used in Europe against a severe outbreak
of FMD. When the disease reached Britain in 1951, there was a clamour for
vaccine use. All work hitherto was kept secret since the Ministry feared
such pressure. In 1951 however, MAFF was forced to account for how it had
spent 30 years of research and hundreds of thousands of pounds if it was not
to assist British farmers against FMD. MAFF stated that while vaccines were
under development, their use in Britain was inappropriate since many
technical problems had yet to be solved. Vaccines were only used on the
continent due to the 'inferior' disease status there, which meant that
slaughter was not financially feasible. Technical problems were less of an
issue on the continent, as vaccines there were used to reduce disease
spread, without the overall aim of elimination as was the situation in

50 years later, these same arguments are being used against vaccination:
that there are several strains, the cost of vaccinating all animals
repeatedly against the disease, the loss of exports, and the fact that
inactivated virus used in the vaccine may retain an element of infectivity
and induce 'masked' disease or a carrier state. In addition, the
'stigmatisation' of vaccine use remains - only nations which are unable to
control the disease resort to vaccination. The barriers erected against
goods from vaccinating nations merely re-inforce this stigma, which
originated on British soil.

While many advances have been made in vaccination, it is clear that these
advances will never be sufficient. The Ministry keeps moving the goal posts,
such that nothing short of no-risk, 100% protection will be sufficient. This
could hardly be claimed of any vaccine in existence. While good progress has
been made in tests to differentiate infected and vaccinated animals, tests
which have important implications for the export trade and considerably
strengthen the case for vaccination, MAF rejects these insufficiently
advanced for field application. This latter argument is again a long
standing one. No aspect of vaccine technology has, in MAF's view, ever been
sufficiently advanced for use in the field. There a huge irony in this
situation - that despite a culture of scientific discovery that involves the
transfer of discoveries out of laboratory into the field, MAF seems intent
on keeping FMD vaccines within the lab and locking the door.

Other nations, currently disease free, are far more open to vaccination.
Australian experts state that 'recent developments suggest that vaccination
could become a more attractive option.' Not all European nations were happy
at the decision to stop vaccinating against FMD in the EU in 1991, in order
to streamline disease control policies and lift trade barriers, as recent
comments in the press suggest. The EU Strategy for emergency FMD vaccination
suggests a number of criteria which should affect the decision to vaccinate;
the British situation already fulfils many of these such as rapid rise in
outbreaks, widespread disease distribution and the rationale for using
vaccination - to prevent FMD spread - is clearly present.

Several of the scientific arguments against vaccination are inappropriate to
Britain's current position: for example the matter of strains- there are
stocks of vaccine in existence against this particular strain. The matter of
repeatedly vaccinating animals is irrelevant since this would only be a
short term move in order to control disease. In addition, the argument that
there is insufficient manpower to vaccinate livestock is surely irrelevant
since farmers are quite capable of vaccinating their own stock without
veterinary assistance. MAFF would probably argue against this in the name of
absolute vaccine security but argument has no real weight, it simply
reflects the overall desire not to vaccinate


FMD vaccines will never be sufficiently advanced for MAF to accept their use
on British soil - MAF has set completely unobtainable scientific criteria
which while supposedly justifying its rejection of vaccination, in actual
fact only provide additional support for a pre-existing decision. The
various logistical problems associated with vaccination could be overcome if
MAFF had the will. Instead they are highlighted as reasons why vaccination
could never work.

The true reasons for not vaccinating are grounded in misplaced confidence
that because slaughter has always worked in Britain, it will work again if
applied with sufficient vigour. This ignores the huge national and
international changes in the last 50 years which assist the spread of FMD,
and the additional epidemiological knowledge which confirms FMD as the most
contagious disease known to man.

In addition there is the matter of national pride. Evidence from other
nations shows far less ambivalence to vaccination; was MAF to choose to
vaccinate at this point this decision would be entirely justified in terms
of EU policy. But MAF feels Britain is superior to vaccination, that only
'weak' or 'inferior' nations, unable to control disease properly need resort
to such technology. Ironically, scientific advance is presented as a
backward step while application of 19thC slaughter and burning is
'progress.' Britain spent the majority of the 20thC boasting about its
superior sanitary status and disease 'purity', achievable through stamping
out. In the case of FMD, Britain encouraged the rest of the world to follow
its example. There are still the shreds of this national reputation at stake
here, despite BSE and swine fever. MAF probably feels that vaccinating would
seal international opinion that Britain is 'the leper of Europe.'
Since opposition to slaughter has historically always gathered pace over
time as the policy has failed, MAF probably feels that an intensive strike
would wipe out the disease quickly and with it the public objections and
ultimately public memories of the carnage. Turning to vaccination at this
point when the decision could so easily have been made earlier without all
the slaughter would seriously undermine MAFF's reputation, as well as in a
sense betraying all those past CVOs who put their careers on the line to
withstood farmers complaints and assert that slaughter was the best and the
only way to control FMD. The fact that slaughter of up to a million animals
is supposedly justified in order to save a single government department's
credibility can surely not be tolerated.


Slaughter as a first line of defence against FMD invasion was introduced in
an entirely different context to the present, on purely economic grounds.
Those grounds are more justified today than ever in the past given present
agricultural practices and the globalisation of trade. However, the very
fact that these conditions are open to change over time means one must guard
against granting the slaughter policy a permanent status. Whilst the
economic situation may justify slaughter, if that situation changes it may
throw the policy into question. There is therefore a strong case for
examining whether costs involved in the proposed mass cull (on top of the
consequential losses to farming and the tourist industry) may outweigh the
costs to the export industry imposed by an alternative method on control.
Slaughter has always eliminated FMD but on certain occasions, as at present,
the certainty of this outcome has been thrown into question. Past outbreaks
reveal that conditions associated with the present outbreak made this state
of affairs virtually inevitable, while past criticisms of slaughter under
such circumstances are still relevant today. Leaving aside the question of
whether or not slaughter at this point is economically (or morally)
justified, the feasibility of its practical implementation must throw a huge
question over whether such a course should be attempted. It is important to
realise that those opposing slaughter are not self-interested cranks any
more than those supporting the policy, despite the fact that historically
they have been portrayed as such. Additional motives and interests shape
everyone's opinion on slaughter and should be taken into consideration when
deciding upon its continuation.

While vaccination does present technical and administrative difficulties,
these could be effectively tackled were the Ministry to desire it. Instead,
technical problems are presented as almost insurmountable and the practical
problems impossible to overcome. It is important to realise that MAFF has
never wanted to vaccinate and that the problems it cites merely justify an
existing stance rather than providing its basic rationale. No vaccine will
ever achieve the standards MAFF desires, and the reasons for this lie in the
arena of national pride, historic tradition and government credibility to
the public. MAFF hides deeper anti-vaccination sentiments behind scientific
reasoning, and this deserves to be recognised. If the economic reasons for
slaughter or its practical feasibility are thrown into question then
vaccination is the only real alternative. The grounds cited by MAFF are
insufficient for the rejection of vaccination and exposing the real
reasoning behind this decision is necessary in order for any substantial
challenge to be mounted against this decision.

MAFF has grown powerful through its past elimination of FMD and through
repeated victories against the critics of slaughter. Tradition plays a huge
role in its approach to this disease problem and in the current critical
situation, historical success is possibly the only certainty MAFF has left
to cling on to. Here I have attempted to undermine that certainty.