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Impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain: implications for rural studies

Impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain: implications for rural studies
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  Journal of Rural Studies 20 (2004) 1–14 Impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain:implications for rural studies Alister Scott a, *, Michael Christie a , Peter Midmore b a Institute of Rural Studies, UCW, Lianbadarn Campus, Aberystwyth SY23 3AL, UK  b School of Management and Business, The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK  Abstract This paper assesses the impact of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in terms of its implications for the discipline of ruralstudies. In particular, it focuses on the position of agriculture in rural economy and society, the standing of the government after itsmanagement of the outbreak, and the performance of the new devolved regional tiers of government. After a brief review of thehistory and aggregate impact of the outbreak, the general themes of the paper are explored from a range of Welsh case-studyevidence, showing the impact on farm structures and the environment, rural communities and their social life. The majorconclusions are that the unanticipated magnitude of effect of the outbreak should direct more attention to the nature of the spaceshared as a public good by agriculture and rural tourism; that the loss of trust in administrations as a result of the specificmanagement of the outbreak reveals scope for new approaches in the study of governance and partnership at a rural level; and theopportunity for the devolved administrations to emphasise a difference in perspective, on both the outbreak and rural issues ingeneral, highlights potentially widening fault-lines in the constitutional reform process, especially as discussion over the future of European rural policies proceed. r  2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords:  Foot and mouth disease; Rural restructuring; Governance; Contingency plans; Evaluation 1. Introduction The 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD)spread to France, the Republic of Ireland, the Nether-lands and Northern Ireland, but was overwhelminglyconcentrated in Britain. Especially in Britain, it caused aphysical, psychological and symbolic upset, and mayprove to have been a crucial turning point in theintricate relations between predominantly urbanisedeconomies and their rural counterparts. This paper isan attempt to explore some of the more fundamentalimplications of the crisis for rural studies in general,albeit from an initial and exploratory perspective.Support is provided by case-study evidence, collectedin Wales in the period during which the outbreakoccurred.During the outbreak, media scrutiny was intense,projecting shocking images of the management of theoutbreak by culling and carcass disposal, and givingvent to furious controversies over the scientific andeconomic issues concerned. Emerging from that closeattention, more wide-ranging issues of public concernwere apparent. These included food safety (following theBSE problem), rural–urban equity (as the outbreakcame in the wake of the rural-inspired fuel protests of October 2000), and the performance of the UKgovernment under pressure.For rural studies, perhaps the most importantmessage is that the role of farming in both ruraleconomy and society needs some reassessment. Itsdeclining economic importance (employing 1.9 per centof the labour force and accounting for an even smallerfraction, 0.8 per cent, of Gross Domestic Product in2001: DEFRA, 2002, p. 76) has led many writers, suchas Murdoch and Marsden (1994), to explore the shift inthe countryside from ‘‘production’’ to ‘‘consumption’’space, and concentrate on the conflicts that arise as aresult. During the FMD outbreak it rapidly becameclear that, although the government initially treated itsmanagement as a purely agricultural problem, thestrict movement restrictions to contain its spread werecausing far more severe spill over effects with respect torural tourism and recreational activity. The systemic ARTICLE IN PRESS *Corresponding author. Tel.: +44-1970-621656. E-mail address: (A. Scott).0743-0167/03/$-see front matter  r  2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/S0743-0167(03)00032-9  importance of farming, and (highlighted by the out-break) its interdependence with a range of other land-uses, surely merits greater attention.A further outcome is that the role of the UKGovernment (together with its network of relationswith the European Union, relevant agencies and sectoralinterests) in the conduct of agricultural and rural policyhas been exposed in a new light. Even the three(limited) 1 inquiries set up in the wake of the FMDoutbreak have questioned the competency of govern-ment in reaction to the challenge it faced. They have alsoheightened the profile of, and given fresh impetus to,development of coherent and integrated policies to dealwith rural problems.The Policy Commission on the Future of Farmingand Food (2002) was charged with examining how tocreate a sustainable, competitive and diverse farmingand food sector. It called for a more market-orientedagriculture, simultaneously reconnected with both im-proved rural environmental quality and greater con-sumer involvement. Its recommendations echoed thecurrent European Agriculture Commissioner’s aspira-tion for a shift from production subsidies to better-targeted rural development and agri-environmentmeasures. In the jargon of the European Union, thisimplies a further shift from ‘‘Pillar One’’ to ‘‘Pillar Two’’of the Common Agricultural Policy, most recentlyreinforced by the Mid-Term Review (EuropeanCommission, 2002).The Royal Society’s report (2002) on the scientificimplications of the outbreak recognised the unprepared-ness and deficiency of government veterinary andscientific services. It stipulated measures such as bettercontingency planning, early warning systems, and moreresearch effort to allow both routine and emergencyvaccination against a range of damaging animal diseasesto become the response of first choice in dealing withfuture outbreaks. The issue of vaccination as a controlmeasure during the outbreak attracted considerablecontroversy, not least in the media. The government didcome to the conclusion, during the outbreak, that itshould be used in Cumbria, one of the areas mostseverely affected by the disease (and later, also inWales). In the event, however, opposition by thefarmers’ unions and food industry concerns aboutconsumer resistance to vaccinated meat prevented itsdeployment.The third, Lessons to be Learned Inquiry (2002),noted among other issues that frequent changes of policy and lack of respect for local knowledge severelydamaged the reputation of government. It concludedthat:Large parts of the farming and wider rural commu-nity became mistrustful of government. The publicand the media—which had initially been broadlysupportive of the Government’s approach—turnedagainst it. In particular, the policies of cullingapparently healthy animals, within 3km of infectedpremises, or on contiguous premises, became veryunpopular, despite their contribution to diseasecontrol (2002, p. 9).The legitimacy of Westminster government as deli-verer of rural policy measures, already under suspicionas a result of existing rural–urban tensions, has beenfurther damaged by the FMD outbreak. Perhaps insearch of a rural advocacy role, the Countryside Agency(2001) issued a highly critical report during the outbreakitself, drawing attention to the imbalance in the way inwhich different sectors were being treated. Compensa-tion paid to farms for culled livestock was, unarguably,relatively generous, whereas the sums devoted tomitigation of the far more serious impact on the non-farm rural economy were meagre.There is an additional twist in terms of policydelivery: the fragmentation resulting from devolutionof responsibility of rural policy to elected administra-tions in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. In Scotland, theextent of administrative and legislative transfer allowedthe Scottish Executive to manage the outbreak in a waythat the ‘Lessons to be Learned’ inquiry recognised asbetter than elsewhere. In contrast, in Wales the weakerframework of devolution was a problem for theresponsible Minister. It led him to complain publicly,in the journal of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, thatalthough local responsibility rested with him, overallpowers of decision-making remained in Westminster,leading to the worst of all possible outcomes (Jones,2001).Having set the context, the remainder of the paper isorganised as follows. In Section 2, the bare facts of the2001 outbreak are briefly described. Thereafter attentionis focussed on case-study evidence from rural Wales. Wehave chosen this particular area in preference to otherson two grounds. 2 Firstly, it illustrates the complexitiesof post-devolution delivery of rural policy on Britain;e.g., the Welsh Assembly Government felt obliged toclaim, in a press release, that ‘‘Haskins’ (i.e., LordHaskins, appointed as Rural Recovery Co-ordinator forareas hit by Foot and Mouth Disease in England) writdoes not run here’’ (Welsh Assembly Government, ARTICLE IN PRESS 1 The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, responded to a parliamentaryquestion on the need for a public inquiry as follows: ‘‘I do not agreethat it must be a public tribunal inquiry y it was sensible to have adifferent type of inquiry in order to produce an inquiry more quickly’’. Hansard  , 13 July 2002, Col. 281. 2 For detailed analysis of the effects in the North East of England,see Phillipson et al. (2002); for Cumbria, Bennett et al. (2002); for Devon, Turner and Sheppard (2001); and for the south west of England as a whole, Gripaios et al. (2001). A. Scott et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 20 (2004) 1–14 2  2001a). Secondly, the context of the studies elsewhere inBritain is primarily economic, whereas the case-studyevidence we provide brings together economic, social,and policy network dimensions. As such, it provides asnapshot of the collective psychology of the Welsh ruralcommunity overall, though this must be interpretedcautiously, since there is at least anecdotal evidence thatsome of the attitudes reported may have changed fromthose expressed in the ferment of the outbreak itself.Nevertheless, the evidence provides an importantindication of matters with which rural studies mustengage, if the implication of the FMD outbreak is to beexplored thoroughly. Throughout the discussion andanalysis of this primarily qualitative material, majorthemes of the paper recur: interdependence betweenagriculture and the non-farm rural economy; thelegitimacy of government management, of both theFMD outbreak itself and its concern for wider ruralissues; and the novel rural policy delivery arrangementssubsequent to devolution. The final section drawstogether the threads of the discussion to draw out thepolicy and research issues that arise from them. 2. The 2002 FMD outbreak in Britain 3 The first outbreak of FMD was confirmed on the 21stFebruary 2001 at an abattoir and adjacent farm nearBrentwood, Essex. The source of the outbreak wastraced to a farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall in North-umbria. In retrospect, the Lessons to be LearnedInquiry identified the failure to impose an immediateban on animal movements (orders restricting the move-ment of livestock susceptible to FMD were not imposeduntil 3 days later) as contributing to the speed and extentof spread of the outbreak. Changes (at least, since thelast outbreak in 1967) in livestock marketing, slaughter-ing and processing systems and a consequent rise involumes and distances of animal movements contrib-uted to this rapidity and magnitude of the impact.Subsequently, the disease developed throughout theUK, resulted in 2030 confirmed cases involving 1.3million animals, and continued for 221 days. Theoutbreaks were concentrated in Northern and SouthWest England, Scotland, the West Midlands and Wales,although there were smaller clusters occurring else-where. As such, it was one of the largest epidemics inhistory, and one the costliest in terms of governmentexpenditure and loss of incomes.Movement restrictions covered access to land in areasdesignated as ‘infected’. As a preventative measure, andon the basis of existing public support, a furtherStatutory Instrument allowing local authorities to closefootpaths and other public rights of way was made onthe 27 February. Most local authorities chose aprecautionary approach, so that by early March publicaccess to nearly all footpaths was prohibited. Togetherwith other voluntary restrictions, this produced a publicimpression that the countryside was ‘closed’. Althoughthe order was subsequently amended to reverse theeffect of a blanket closure on public access to thecountryside, it proved difficult to persuade rural localauthorities to abandon the controls, and even by 17 Mayonly 26 per cent of footpaths were open. Some disease-free counties, including Ceredigion, Buckinghamshire,Lincolnshire and East Sussex, excluded the public fromfootpaths access for even longer than elsewhere.The other, more dramatic public effect was the luridmedia portrayal of the effects of the methods used tocontrol the spread of disease. These predominantlyinvolved rapid culling and incineration of carcasses,although some were buried in landfill sites and, towardsthe end of the outbreak, some were rendered. Theseimages ensured that FMD was rarely absent from thepublic gaze. The number of cases, both suspected andsubstantiated, ran beyond the veterinary and supportresources needed to deal with them. In late March, thegovernment called on the logistic support of the armedforces to assist in control efforts. It also introducedvarious policies of pre-emptive slaughtering to stampout the disease. Although never fully implemented, thiscould have involved slaughter of all sheep within a 3-kmradius of an outbreak; slaughter of animals on holdingscontiguous with those affected by an outbreak; andslaughtering on evidence of suspicious contacts thatmight have spread the disease. In some instances,discretion based on local veterinary knowledge andintelligence was allowed, 4 whereas in others, the policieswere applied rigidly. At around the same time, theeffects of movement restrictions on animals with limitedforage were recognised by providing compensation forslaughter on welfare grounds. In fact, the ratio of confirmed cases to total numbers of animals culled in themanagement of the outbreak was just over 1–4; detailsof the breakdown by animal species, and basis of culling, are provided in Table 1.As animal slaughter accelerated, public attitudestowards the management of the outbreak were trans-formed. There were delays in disposal, the media vividlyexploited the resulting images of heaps of decayingcarcasses and vast pyres, and environmental concernsemerged over the burial pits used as alternatives to ARTICLE IN PRESS 3 The statistics in this section are derived from both the Lessons to beLearned Inquiry (2002), and the National Audit Office (2002) report on the management of the outbreak. 4 The extraordinary emotion generated by the outbreak is symbo-lised by the story of Phoenix the calf, reprieved by the intervention of the Prime Minister after apparently being given a lethal injection, andsurviving for 6 days in a heap of culled carcasses: a report of this storyappeared in the  Daily Telegraph , 27 May 2001. A. Scott et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 20 (2004) 1–14  3  cremation. The UK Parliament’s Select Committee onEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs observed that‘‘(t)he relentless slaughter of animals as a result of thecontiguous cull policy, and the consequential burningpyres of carcasses, or their burial in huge pits, causedvast and understandable anguish’’ (House of Commons,2002). Media interest also stoked concerns about themounting private, uncompensated consequential costsof the outbreak. To some extent these impacted onfarms without an outbreak of the disease and unable toclaim compensation for culling livestock on welfaregrounds, but the effects were more particularly acute onthe non-farm rural economy, following cancellation of public events, and a virtually complete absence of tourism activity. Although the government recognisedthis early on by establishing a Rural Task Force tocoordinate aid to non-farm rural businesses, for variousreasons (including EU competition rules) the scale of itssupport was skewed significantly towards the compen-sation for the destruction of farm livestock.A number of studies during the outbreak attempted toestimate the overall economic effects (e.g., Blake et al.,2001; Midmore, 2001a,b). Movement restrictions caused many farms difficulties in marketing their live-stock, and also incurred higher costs required due toextra feed purchases; industries both up- and down-stream lost business. Closure of public access andcancellation of all rural events curtailed the revenuesof many rural service businesses, and also had indirecteffects on other sectors. One of the more authoritativereports (if only because produced with access to internalgovernment information resources) was that producedby a combined DEFRA/DCMS (2002) economics team.Their main conclusions, that the costs to public andprivate sectors, respectively, were  d 3 billion and  d 5billion, are broken down in Table 2. 5 The peak of the outbreak was reached during its sixthweek; the largest number of cases reported in a day was50, on the 30 March. Thereafter, although the outbreakrecurred in significant local concentrations of infections,the progress decelerated substantially. Slaughterings,however, did not; their peak, particularly continuing onthe basis of dangerous contact, was much later in thecycle and especially (and controversially) involved sheepsuspected of carrying the disease. The last case of FMDwas confirmed on 30 September; the last Infected Areastatus, covering parts of Northern England, was liftedon 28 November. 3. Case-study evidence from Wales It is against this background that our case-studyevidence is placed. Wales, as a region, provides amicrocosm of the course of the outbreak as a whole.Like other affected regions, its agriculture is predomi-nantly livestock-based, with most production concen-trated in disadvantaged upland areas. Correspondingly, ARTICLE IN PRESS Table 1Animals slaughtered for disease control and welfare purposes (England, Scotland and Wales)Disease control Welfare TotalInfected premises Dangerous contactcontiguous premisesDangerous contact non-contiguouspremises (including 3km cull)Slaughter onsuspicionSheep 968,000 991,000 1,360,000 109,000 1,821,000 5,249,000Cattle 301,000 196,000 82,000 13,000 166,000 758,000Pigs 22,000 50,000 68,000 3000 306,000 449,000Total 1,291,000 1,237,000 1,510,000 125,000 2,293,000 6,456,000 Source : National Audit Office (2001).Table 2Sectoral economic effects of FMD ( d m), 2001–2005National Rural UrbanAgriculture/food chain   3120Of which:Compensated bygovernment a 2580Direct effect   525   525Indirect effect   85Tourism (range)   4485 to  5340Of which:Direct effect   2700 to  3205  1700 to  2015  825 to  1040Indirect effect   1835 to  2180 Source : DEFRA/DCMS (2002). a Impacts directly compensated by the Exchequer are excluded. 5 Costs to the economy as a whole are less than those identified in theDEFRA/DCMS report, because expenditures on rural trips foregonehave been replaced by other spending (the phenomenon known as‘‘displacement’’). However, it notes that the impacts on affected sectorsof the economy, and effects within those sectors, have beenappropriately captured by this calculation. A. Scott et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 20 (2004) 1–14 4  it has suffered disproportionately from the effects of theagricultural recession, which started in the mid-1990sand has continued up to the present. Its main causes arenumerous, and include the high value of the poundrelative to the Euro and other European currencies, thecollapse in world commodity prices at the end of the1990s, the consolidation of industries upstream anddownstream of farming, and the extra costs imposed onUK farmers due to the BSE crisis (Welsh AssemblyGovernment, 2001b, p. 43). Since 1997, total agricultur-al income in Wales has fallen from  d 210 million, to  d 46million in the year 2001, a fall of 79 per cent (MAFF,1999; DEFRA, 2002). The total number of people employed in farming in Wales, at just over 55,000, (5 percent of the Welsh workforce) has declined by over 7600between the same period, and the proportion of farmersworking part-time has increased from 39 per cent in1997 to 48 per cent in 2000. 6 Holdings are still relativelysmall in economic terms, even though the number hasdeclined by about 10 per cent since 1997 (WelshAssembly Government, various years). Despite this,agriculture in Wales is economically more important,overall, than in Britain as a whole. It accounts for 1.2per cent of GDP and agriculture in the rural areassupports 8 per cent of full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs(Agriculture and Rural Development Committee,2001). 7 Tourism is also a major constituent of the ruraleconomy, with increasing appeal as a catalyst foreconomic, social, cultural and environmental change(Youell, 2001). With respect to employment, it supportsup to 100,000 jobs directly and indirectly in the Welsheconomy, accounting for more than 10 per cent of theworkforce (Wales Tourist Board, 2000). In Wales as awhole, the biggest growth trend in recent years has beenin the short (1–3 nights) holiday market, accounting for32 per cent of all domestic holiday spending (WalesTourist Board, 2001a). It is estimated that total annualexpenditure by overnight and day visitors in the ruralareas of Wales is of the order of   d 1 billion, representing50 per cent of total Welsh tourism revenue (Newidiem,1999), and in these areas it has been estimated thattourism supports 25,000 direct jobs (Wales RuralForum, 1998). Farm tourism is a particularly well-represented type of rural tourist activity, contributingsignificantly to Wales’ image as a holiday destination. Itcurrently contributes at least  d 10 million per annum tothe incomes of some 1600 farming families in Wales,typically representing between 15 and 50 per cent of their annual incomes (Wales Tourist Board, 2001a).Certainly, the impact of the FMD outbreak wasprofound across rural Wales in economic terms. The 118confirmed cases in Wales represented nearly 6 per centof total cases in mainland Britain (WLGA, 2002), andled to the slaughter and subsequent disposal of 1.25million animals. The economic effects have beenestimated, firstly in a report for the Welsh DevelopmentAgency (Midmore, 2001b, cited by Welsh Assembly Government, 2002) and secondly by the EconomicAdvice Division (2002) of the Welsh Assembly Govern-ment itself. Although the latter were more cautious interms of the relative impact on GDP, the range of predictions of these studies is broadly similar, suggestingreductions in 2001 of between 0.5 and 1 per cent. Acomparison of the estimates is provided in Table 3.However, Midmore broke down the estimates byregional division of Wales, and showed that whilst theabsolute magnitudes of impact were larger elsewhere, inrelative terms more economic damage occurred in theareas where cases were concentrated, Anglesey, Powysand Gwent. For example, the Mid Wales divisionsuffered a greater percentage reduction in GDP (twoand a half times the Wales national average) and arather larger potential impact on unemployment (half apercentage point more).These estimates highlight the critical importance of the tourism sector in rural Wales, with many tourismbusinesses experiencing relatively high losses of revenueas a result of FMD outbreak. Because of the multi-sectoral nature of the industry, a range of enterpriseswas affected, from hotels, farms, guesthouses and touristattractions to transport operators and activity centres. Asurvey of tourism businesses in late spring 2001suggested that in the early months of the outbreak,three quarters of respondents had experienced anaverage 60 per cent reduction in revenue, with similardeclines in advance bookings (Wales Tourist Board,2001b). Small providers of serviced tourism accommo-dation in inland, rural areas reported the largestlosses, and in many cases these were diversifiedfarms. Youell (2001) suggested an average 75 per centloss of turnover in Welsh rural tourism enterprises ARTICLE IN PRESS Table 3Comparative estimates of the economic impact of FMD in Wales ( d m)WAG Study(2002)WDA Study(Midmore, 2001b)Uncompensated farm losses  d 50–  d 90  d 49Food supply chain losses  d 20–  d 30  d 35Tourism losses  d 70–  d 100  d 248Total  d 140–  d 220  d 332 6 In 1998, changes were introduced to the labour questions on theJune Agricultural Census, which may have led to a redistribution of labour between the various categories. This last figure is thus lessreliable, but still indicates the broad magnitude of change. 7 Though obviously problematic, we have followed the Agricultureand Rural Development Committee’s (2001) definition as theboundaries of the unitary authorities which are predominantly rural:that is, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Powys, Ceredi-gion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire. A. Scott et al. / Journal of Rural Studies 20 (2004) 1–14  5
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