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Foot-and-mouth crisis timetable

LONDON, England -- Here is the timetable of the main developments in the foot-and-mouth outbreak that has plunged the UK livestock industry into crisis.

MONDAY February 19 -- A routine veterinary inspection at an abattoir, in Essex, near London, shows "highly suspicious" signs of foot-and-mouth disease in 27 pigs.

TUESDAY February 20 -- The UK Ministry of Agriculture confirms the outbreak and a five-mile exclusion zone is set up around the abattoir and around the two farms that supplied the pigs (in Buckinghamshire and on the Isle of Wight).

WEDNESDAY February 21 -- The Government bans all exports of live animals, meat and dairy products while the European Commission also announces a ban on exports of all live animals and animal products from Britain until March 1. Northern Ireland imposes a complete ban on the import of animal and dairy products from the UK.

THURSDAY February 22 -- A third case of foot-and-mouth is confirmed at a cattle farm in Essex. The public are advised to avoid farmland to prevent spread of the disease while hunting is suspended for seven days. The Ramblers' Association advises people against rural walks.

FRIDAY February 23 -- Three more outbreaks are confirmed, bringing the total to six. Woburn Safari Park, in Bedfordshire, temporarily closes to protect its animals from the disease, and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, in Bedfordshire, bans all cars. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds closes all its nature reserves for a week and the National Trust announces the closure of all parks containing livestock.

SATURDAY February 24 -- UK Chief vet Jim Scudamore announces that the mass slaughter of thousands of pigs and cattle on eight farms across England has begun in an attempt to wipe out the disease. Agriculture ministry workers begin constructing a giant "funeral pyre" for 800 slaughtered pigs in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, where the outbreak was believed to have started.

SUNDAY February 25 -- A seventh outbreak is confirmed on a cattle and sheep farm in Highampton, near Okehampton, in Devon. Three royal parks are shut and public access is halted to Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park, all in south-west London.

MONDAY February 26 -- As the number of confirmed cases reaches 12, Germany -- which received an export order of animals from the Devon farm, which carried the disease -- introduces checks on people arriving from Britain to ensure nobody brings in meat or other animal products that may be contaminated. Belgium introduces a four-week ban on the transportation of goats and sheep and the Netherlands has imposed similar restrictions after slaughtering 3,000 animals over the weekend. The Irish authorities set up army checkpoints at all points of entry from Britain and Northern Ireland.

TUESDAY February 27 -- Britain extends a freeze on the movement of livestock and the government announces a £152 million ($220m) compensation package for farmers affected be the crisis. Horse racing fixtures are banned for one week, and a rugby international in Ireland against Wales is postponed as confirmed cases reach 18.

THURSDAY March 1 –- Six new farms are confirmed to have the disease, including the first cases in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Soldiers are assigned to border checks in the Republic of Ireland to try and stop the spread. In Britain the spectre of meat shortages looms with one supermarket running out of pork and lamb. France prepares to slaughter another 30,000 animals on top of the 20,000 already culled.

FRIDAY March 2 –- There are now 39 cases in Britain. Supermarkets strike back at accusations by the prime minister Tony Blair that they have promoted the crisis by pressuring farmers to produce cheap food, saying he is looking for a scapegoat. Restrictions across mainland Europe step up with many ports of entry requiring travellers from Britain to disinfect their footwear and vehicle tyres.

SATURDAY March 3 -– France and Belgium investigate their first suspected cases of the disease, the results of initial tests are negative. Confirmed cases in Britain rise to 52. The UK Agriculture Minister announces that European Union aid due to farmers to compensate for the strong pound value will be sped up.

SUNDAY March 4 –- Tests are conducted on a farm in Denmark after a sheep shows symptoms of the disease. Initial results prove negative but an exclusion zone is put in place and further samples taken. In Britain 57 cases are confirmed including one on a farm owned by the Prince of Wales.

MONDAY March 5 -- Second tests on suspect animals in Belgium and Denmark prove negative. Licenses in Britain allow livestock from disease-free areas to move directly to abattoirs.

TUESDAY March 6 -- European ministers propose extending the ban on British exports of livestock until March 27 and putting a ban on livestock markets but veterinary experts reject a call for mass vaccination. Confirmed cases in Britain reach 76.

WEDNESDAY March 7 -- Italy imposes a worldwide ban on imports of livestock susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease. In Britain the outbreak claims one of the highlights of the jump racing season with the postponement of the annual Cheltenham Festival. The Irish Rugby Football Union confirms it has cancelled its Six Nations matches against England and Scotland.

THURSDAY March 8 -- With the toll topping the 100 mark the UK's chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore warns the outbreak "is going to last for a long time." The Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin reports that a cattle farm in Orimattila in southern Finland has been isolated after a suspected case of foot and mouth-disease.

FRIDAY March 9 -- Cases in Britain rise to 111. It is announced that Scottish farmers in areas unaffected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak are allowed to move livestock on welfare grounds as the lambing season starts.

SATURDAY March 10 Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore warns there is evidence the virus has spread from sheep and pigs to cattle.

SUNDAY March 11 A slaughter of cattle begins in Germany after calves on a farm in the Lower Saxony region show symptoms of the disease. UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown insists in a television interview that the disease has now been brought under control.

MONDAY March 12 A herd of cattle on a farm in France is destroyed after veterinarians identified a suspected outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm where six cattle from the 113-strong herd are discovered with symptoms. Britain's Chief Veterinary Officer says the country is now in the throes of a "major outbreak" as 19 more cases are confirmed, taking total confirmed outbreaks nationwide to 183.

TUESDAY March 13 The first case of foot-and-mouth disease in mainland Europe is confirmed in France as tests carried out on a cattle farm in the northwest of the country prove positive. The United States and Canada ban meat and meat products from the European Union following the discovery.

WEDNESDAY March 14 Argentina -- the world's fifth largest beef exporter -- confirm an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Buenos Aires province. Australia and New Zealand step up preventative measures to insulate their livestock from the disease. They announce that passengers arriving from Britain will face tighter scrutiny before clearing customs.

THURSDAY March 15 -- Gulf Arab states launch measures to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth after the disease surfaces in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) report 10 cases in cows. Britain's Agriculture Minister Nick Brown announces plans for a massive pre-emptive cull of apparently healthy livestock living around infected sites.

FRIDAY March 16 -- Gerry Kiely, a senior European Union official in Washington attacks the United States for imposing a ban on meat and livestock from the whole of the EU, following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Britain and France.

SATURDAY March 17 -- Following protests, the British government postpones its pre-emptive cull until the scientific reasons behind it had been explained to the farmers concerned. The Irish government cancels St Patrick’s Day celebrations to avoid the large-scale movement of people around the country.

SUNDAY March 18 -- The British government admits it has no idea when the crisis will end, as the number of confirmed cases tops 300. Economists warn the outbreak is likely to cost the UK nine billion pounds ($13 billion) in terms of lost earnings for the agriculture and tourism industries.

MONDAY March 19 -- EU agriculture ministers reject calls for a vaccination campaign, because it would cost all member countries their “foot-and-mouth-free” status in world trade markets. Britain’s Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore meets farmers in Cumbria, northern England, and insists the pre-emptive cull will go on.

TUESDAY March 20 -– The National Farmers’ Union in the UK accuses the British government of acting too slowly in the early days of the crisis and says the slaughter of thousands of apparently healthy animals could have been avoided. Troops are called in to help dispose of the backlog of carcasses.

WEDNESDAY March 21 –- The Netherlands becomes the second country in mainland Europe to fall victim to the disease when three cases are confirmed. The government imposes a ban on the transport of all animals. The EU bans Dutch livestock exports.

THURSDAY March 22 -- The first case of foot-and-mouth is confirmed in the Irish Republic. Infected sheep were found on a farm situated within a 10-kilometre (3.4-mile) exclusion zone placed around the holding in County Armagh where Northern Ireland's only outbreak of the disease was confirmed earlier this month.

FRIDAY March 23 -- France’s Ministry of Agriculture confirms a second case of foot-and-mouth, this time on a farm near Paris. The number of confirmed cases tops 500 in the UK where government scientists warn the outbreak could see up to half of the country’s 62 million cattle, sheep and pigs being slaughtered. European Union vets authorise the limited use of vaccines to help fight the disease but rule out a mass inoculation programme.

SATURDAY March 24 –- The French government introduces a self-imposed export ban on all meat, dairy and animal produce not treated against foot-and-mouth. Ministers in Britain approve plans for a nationwide cull of apparently healthy animals near the site of all outbreaks.

SUNDAY March 25 –- The UK Government convenes a crisis management committee to deal with the spreading outbreak. The British Army begins digging huge pits at a disused military airfield, near Carlisle, in Cumbria, for slaughtered animals. The number of confirmed cases in the UK tops 600.

Europe vets to extend UK meat ban
February 26, 2001
New UK foot-and-mouth case
February 25, 2001
UK animal virus ban to last weeks
February 22, 2001
Outbreak sparks UK meat shortage fears
February 24, 2001

Ministry of Agriculture
European Union

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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