19 March 2001
MAFF withholds disease information

By FWi staff

THE Ministry of Agriculture has defended a decision to stop publishing details about foot-and-mouth outbreaks saying they were best ignored anyway.

A daily list of outbreaks on the MAFF website had included links to other previous outbreaks giving a national picture of how the disease had spread.

But MAFF officials have decided not to publish the information – to the annoyance of farmers who were using it to track the spread of the disease.

A MAFF spokesman initially told FARMERS WEEKLY that the information had been removed from the website to save time.

“It takes a huge amount of time for the people working on it and we want to minimise what they have to do,” he said.

The ministry was also concerned that people would jump to conclusions that the disease is spreading out of control if they saw that a link was unproven.

The spokesman admitted that the removal of the information could raise suspicions among farmers that it was now becoming difficult to track the disease.

But the details are still included on foot-and-mouth lists sent by fax and email to regional MAFF staff, FARMERS WEEKLY has learned.

When contacted for a second time, a MAFF spokeswoman said that the links were not authoritative but based on speculation by local vets in the field.

She said: “These are simply what the vet on the spot thought the link was, which is not a particularly valid thing to do. Its probably best to ignore them.”

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage