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Remembering Foot and Mouth

By Fiona Reid
Remembering Foot and Mouth

WHILE covid continues to rage, thoughts are turning to another epidemic which devastated the region 20 years ago this month.

On February 20 2001, foot and mouth was discovered in an abattoir in Essex.

Several weeks later it had travelled north and despite a ban on livestock movement, Scotland’s first cases were announced here in Dumfries and Galloway on March 1, with two farms affected at Lockerbie and Canonbie.

Commenting at the time, Scottish NFU president Jim Walker said confirmation that the disease had reached Scotland was “a tragedy for the whole industry”.

This region went on to bear the brunt of the outbreak, as many will remember.

It lasted until May 23 that year and in that time 177 premises were affected locally.

According to Scottish Executive records, 544,309 animals were slaughtered in total across Dumfries and Galloway and burning pyres became a common sight, with the army brought in to help with the gruesome task.

Some of the animals were killed as part of contiguous culls, following the introduction on March 15 of a 3km firebreak around infected farms to try and stop the disease in its tracks.

However, it later emerged that many of the flocks slaughtered on suspicion were later reported to be test negative.

And there were several court cases as desperate small holders tried to save their pets – some successful, others not.

Over £1 billion was paid out in compensation to affected farmers nationwide.

But they were not the only ones affected, with a big hit on the rural economy and tourism decimated too as the countryside was effectively closed off.

Meanwhile, after a string of visits to the region by leading politicians, including the First Minister Henry McLeish and Prime Minister Tony Blair, the General Election was postponed by a month due to the events.

Over the next few weeks, we will be speaking to some of those at the heart of the local outbreak about their memories of that tragic time.

If you want to share your experiences, email [email protected] or call 01461 202417.