24 August 2001


FebruaryGovernment vets spot foot-and-mouth disease in a batch of pigs delivered to the Cheale Meats abattoir in Brentwood, Essex. Exports of live animals, meat and milk are suspended. All animal movements are banned and livestock prices plummet as government officials try to track down the source of the disease.

MarchThe number of outbreaks escalates. Walkers are banned from the countryside. Farm minister Nick Brown announces that livestock will be killed on all farms within 3km of infected premises. Tony Blair postpones the expected May General Election until 7 June.

April The death toll of animals passes 2m. The Royal Show is cancelled. Local residents are outraged at the disposal of infected livestock as pyres from burning carcasses light up the night sky. The NFU warns Tony Blair that farmers will revolt if he pushes ahead with plans to introduce vaccination.

MayThe crisis reaches its 100th day. Stand-offs continue between farmers and officials who want to cull livestock. Some 100,000 animals are slaughtered as a second wave of the disease hits northern England. Government chief scientist David King warns that further clusters of F&M will occur unless farmers improve biosecurity.

JuneLabour wins an unprecedented second term in office. Tony Blair abolishes MAFF and Nick Brown is axed. New DEFRA minister Margaret Beckett says farmers concerns will not dominate her vision for rural Britain. Lord Haskins, later appointed to help the post-F&M recovery, says farmers must shoulder much of the blame for the epidemic.

JulyA host of headlines suggests that farmers are profiteering from F&M. Government officials confirm they are investigating allegations that farmers are colluding to artificially boost compensation levels for culled animals. Tony Blair halts clean-up operations on farms, claiming that the cost is "unacceptable".

AugustMargaret Beckett cuts short her holiday to announce a three inquiries into F&M. The NFU says farmers have nothing to fear after revelations that 37 farmers received more than £1m each in compensation for lost animals. British agriculture takes a step towards normality as Scotland holds its first livestock market for six months.

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