Foot and mouth: The newspapers’ verdict

Foot and mouth disease dominates newspaper front pages this morning, but printing deadlines seem to have restricted the repetition of horrific images from 2001’s funeral pyres and mass slaughter to inside pages.


“PM cancels hols to tackle crisis,” reports the Sun. On page two it continues with: “Every farmer is terrified today.” The accompanying image shows DEFRA officials sealing a footpath near the outbreak farm in Surrey last night.


A more sober line characterises The Independent’s report, reflecting the horror felt across the industry. The outbreak is a nightmare, it says, raising the spectre of the 2001 outbreak, which “disfigured Britain with pyres of burning cattle carcasses and cost the nation £8bn in compensation.”


The Independent’s columnist Michael McCarthy poses the key question: “Have we caught it in time?” He hopes lessons have been learned from 2001, when restrictions were too late to prevent infected animals going to market, and from there had been sold and transported by lorry, along with the disease, all over Britain.


The Times reports DEFRA’s efforts to nip the disease in the bud, saying government vets were battling last night to avert a repeat of the crisis that crippled the British countryside in 2001.


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The outbreak could not have come at a more testing time for farmers, rural businesses, or DEFRA, after the prolonged wet weather raised concern for the harvest, points out The Times’ countryside editor Vallerie Elliott.


The Guardian relays the news in stark fashion, a double-page spread putting the 2001 epidemic in figures: £8.5bn cost to British taxpayers, 7m aninals slaughtered, 1.2m animals killed in Cumbria, £1.3bn paid in compensation to farmers, 9000 farms received government compensation. The Daily Telegraph reports different data, with £3bn of the total £8bn coming from taxpayers.


Prime Minister in crisis talks reflects the Daily Mail, adding that the three words foot and mouth brings fear not just to every farmer, but to anyone whose livelihood depends on the countryside.




For more information and stories check out the FWi foot and mouth special report.