The Farmers Union of Wales has claimed that its members’ memories of the foot-and-mouth crisis are still fresh and very painful.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the outbreak, Bob Parry, who was union president at the time, said that what farmers also remembered was the lack of quick and urgent action to combat the spread of the infection.

“Since then animal health issues have been devolved, so let’s hope that will improve matters if, God forbid, we ever have another outbreak,” said Mr Parry, who farms on Anglesey.

In 2001 almost 350,000 animals were killed on 817 Welsh farms and open areas like the Brecon Beacons, many as a result of the contiguous cull ordered by the Welsh Assembly.

Harrowing scenes

Farmers were still haunted by images of piles of rotting carcasses awaiting disposal, and the sight and smell of burning pyres.

Glyn Powell, a former FUW deputy president, said he prayed that farmers and the public should never again witness such harrowing scenes.

Now retired from farming near Sennybridge in south Powys, Mr Powell renewed his criticism of the decision to transport 1000s of carcasses by road for burning or burial on the Epynt Mountain military range near his home.

Welsh Assembly ministers and civil servants had rejected protests by farmers and the public, warnings that potentially infected blood would leak from lorries, and the forecast that the burial site would pollute local streams.

All the dire predictions came true and resulted in panic.

But the current transport of fallen stock over long distances for incineration indicated that lessons had not been learned from the dark days of 2001.

“Our so-called political masters blamed the spread of F&M on livestock movements around the country, yet they are now condoning daily trips of dead stock across huge distances of the countryside,” said Mr Powell.

A combination of the threat of risk of disease problems and poor returns meant that many farmers did not have the heart to restart after seeing their animals culled.