Independent expert committee makes forward-looking recommendations on Foot & Mouth Disease

Independent expert committee makes forward-looking recommendations on Foot & Mouth Disease

The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s independent inquiry into the impact of foot and mouth disease in Scotland is now complete and its expert committee will today make key recommendations for the future. Established at the instigation of the President and Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), the independent committee’s working remit has been be to consider scientific aspects of the Foot & Mouth virus, the disease, options for its control and the impact of the spread of the virus on the social and economic life of Scotland. Under the Chairmanship of Professor Ian Cunningham, the independent committee has placed particular emphasis on future methods of prevention and control, and makes key recommendations on lessons to be learned for the future. These include that:

  • Recognition is made of the wider interests of the rural economy and suitable stakeholders are involved in considering options for the control of Foot & Mouth Disease.
  • An immediate ban on all livestock movements throughout the country is imposed as soon as a case of Foot & Mouth Disease is confirmed. This may be speedily relaxed in consultation with stakeholders, once the source of the disease is traced
  • Government should press the EU on specific import regulations
  • Comprehensive emergency contingency plans should be devised and scrutinised by a Standing Committee which co-ordinates regular, full-scale exercises.
  • Resources be made available as a matter of priority to develop improved tests for the detection of Foot & Mouth Disease, (particularly RT-PCR) and that protective Vaccination be included as a control measure as an adjunct to slaughter of clinical cases.
  • A Chief Veterinary Officer (Scotland) be created with direct responsibility for all aspects of veterinary matters, including the eradication of Foot & Mouth Disease.
  • A ‘Territorial Veterinary Army’ is created to ensure that enough suitably experienced Veterinarians are available
  • The Food Standards Agency take steps to assure the public that reservations about the consumption of meat and milk from vaccinated animals are unjustified

President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Sir William Stewart said:

The 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak had wide-spread and far-reaching consequences in Scotland. It was not the only part of the UK to suffer, of course, but the way in which it was tackled and the effects on the wider economy were different in a number of ways. The Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh therefore took the view that there would be value in creating an independent inquiry into the distinctive happenings here and in producing a constructive, forward-looking report. This was made possible by the support of individuals and organisations who donated cash or made a contribution in kind. Under the excellent Chairmanship of Professor Ian Cunningham, supported by Vice Chairman, Professor Gavin McCrone and Secretary Mr Loudon Hamilton, a wide range of evidence has been considered by the Committee and a broadly based report produced. This is hugely important for Scotland and beyond, as the threat from Foot and Mouth Disease remains a serious one. I commend this independent report and its recommendations to Government and all other key bodies concerned.

Chairman of the RSE’s Committee, Professor Ian Cunningham said:

In my view, in any future Foot and Mouth outbreak there will be no need for mass slaughter of animals, if our recommendations are implemented. The consequence of this is that the disruption to the wider rural economy will be minimised. I am sure that the public will welcome the use of vaccination as an effective tool in the control of Foot and Mouth Disease and that further, they can be reassured that vaccinated meat poses no risk to human health.


Professor Ian Cunningham, CBE, FRSE Committee Chairman
Professor Gavin McCrone, CB, FRSE Committee Vice Chairman & Chair of the inquiry’s Economic Impact Committee
Sir James Armour CBE, FRSE Committee Member
Sir William Stewart, FRS, FRSE The President of The Royal Society of Edinburgh.


Economic and Social Impact

In considering the options for controlling FMD, the Scottish Executive must take account of the effects on the wider interests of the rural economy and involve the appropriate stakeholders. (para 43 i.e paragraph in main body of report)

Biology and Disease Control

SEERAD should identify a regional laboratory in Scotland to undertake diagnosis of FMD using tests where live virus is not required. The latter should remain the responsibility of Pirbright. (para 61)

In view of the clear advantages they offer, SEERAD in consultation with DEFRA, Pirbright and interested commercial organisations should as a matter of the highest priority make resources available for the development of improved tests for the detection of FMD, especially RT-PCR; and that they should give similar priority to support the development and evaluation of on-farm tests for the detection of virus or viral components. (para 62)

SEERAD should, in consultation with DEFRA, press for early adoption of tests that can discriminate FMD vaccinated from FMD infected animal to facilitate emergency vaccination in dealing with future outbreaks of FMD. A regional laboratory in Scotland could carry out those tests which do not involve the use of live virus. (para 66)

A complete ban on movement of susceptible animals throughout the country must be imposed immediately an FMD case is confirmed. This may be speedily relaxed in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, including rural businesses, once the source of the disease is traced. (para 74)

An appropriate GIS system should be established detailing land use, livestock numbers and other information relevant to disease control. Furthermore uniform standards in database design and data handling protocols should be established. (para 94)

The Food Standards Agency should give public reassurance on the consumption of milk products and meat from vaccinated animals and should do so at a time , not of crisis, but when it is able to be dealt with as a routine issue in relation to imported meat already consumed in Europe. (para 109)

The following recommendations relate to vaccination:

That UK contingency planning for future outbreaks of FMD incorporates emergency protective vaccination (ring or barrier) as an adjunct to slaughter of clinical cases and dangerous contacts.

That Government should ensure that vaccine manufacturers are involved in developing a national strategy for adequate production of emergency vaccine.

That the Government presses the European Commission to clarify its policy on the tests and evidence required before exports of livestock and livestock products from a member state that has had the disease can be resumed to other member states. These rules should be no stricter than those applied to other countries.

That the Government urges the OIE to validate tests that distinguish animals vaccinated against FMD from those that have been exposed to infection. (para 122)

Further analysis of the role of sheep, cattle and pigs in the 2001 outbreak should be undertaken and the results published. Further studies on factors influencing the spread and survival of FMD Virus strains are also required. (para 125)

SEERAD should foster and co-ordinate the available expertise in prevention and control of animal disease in Scotland in conjunction with SHEFC and the NHS. A good starting point would be an audit of available high containment facilities where FMD research could safely be undertaken. (para 128)

The UK Government should press the EU to end the concession on the personal import of cooked meat into any member state from countries outside the Single Market and the European Economic Area and to impose stringent methods of inspection. (para 131)

The Government should carry out up-to-date assessments of risks in the light of the international situation; and that high priority be given to surveillance at points of entry to the UK, at markets, abattoirs and on farms. (para 137)

SEERAD should prepare and keep in readiness up-to-date factsheets on biosecurity to be issued to all concerned at the start of an outbreak. Every effort should also be made to ensure that standards of biosecurity, even in normal times, are raised so as to minimise the risk of any infection spreading. (para 143)

Managing the Disease Outbreak

The role of the Scottish Minister should be integral to UK decision-making and he should have access to advice in accordance with his specific accountability to the Scottish Parliament for animal health and disease control. (para 150)

The post of Chief Veterinary Officer (Scotland) should be created with direct responsibility for all aspects of veterinary matters, including the eradication of FMD; and nationally agreed control measures (including relevant protocols) should be devolved within the context of a Scottish Contingency Plan with responsibility being invested in the Chief Veterinary Officer (Scotland). (para 153).

Funding for the State Veterinary Service in Scotland should become the responsibility of SEERAD with an appropriate transfer of funding from DEFRA. (para 154)

The SVS and SEERAD should establish a body of contracted veterinary surgeons, RVIs external to the SVS, that would be on standby for the control of any future FMD outbreaks or any other major disease outbreak. All those participating as RVIs should be paid a retainer on the understanding that they would be immediately available in the event of an emergency. (para 163)

The following priorities should be followed for disposal of carcasses:

Rendering plants should be considered as the first option but only where the transfer of carcasses can be guaranteed to be within sealed containers to minimise the risk of transferring infection to other premises and stringent disinfecting regimes applied to the transport used

Burial on site should be used where there is inadequate rendering capacity provided there are no risks to water resources

Burning should be used only as a last resort. (para 170)

SEPA’s role in protecting the environment should be properly incorporated into the contingency planning and the management of the emergency at the highest level. (para 173)

The Scottish Executive, in consultation with relevant bodies, should give priority to identifying large burial sites throughout Scotland. (para 175)

A clear strategy for dealing with the valuation process should be in place and a current list of competent valuers held by SEERAD. An annual review should also be considered to establish stock values and those values should be adhered to throughout any future outbreak. (para 191)

In the event of an outbreak, unless its origins and spread are immediately apparent, the countryside should be closed for a limited period of three weeks at the same time as the animal movement ban is announced; but as soon as the extent of the disease is determined, the closure should be lifted in a non-affected areas. (para 198)

Contingency Planning

At least once a year a practice exercise should be undertaken at which there is a mock outbreak at a site not revealed until the start of the exercise. This would require all those involved to act as they would in a real outbreak as a means of testing their effectiveness and the suitability of the organisational structure. (para 216)

SEERAD, in association with other stakeholders, such as local authorities, health boards and, where appropriate, the local enterprise companies (LECs) should establish a responsive system to assist members of the rural community to cope with stress during and following an FMD outbreak. (para 219)

A comprehensive review should be undertaken into the most effective means of communication to those concerned in the event of an outbreak and the appropriate mechanisms incorporated in the Scottish contingency plan. (para 221)

The Scottish Executive should review the emergency plans of all Scottish Councils to ensure that they adequately cover the action required in the event of an FMD outbreak; and all Councils should up-date their plans if that has not already been done. Such plans should be reviewed annually in the light of developments in science and consequential changes in policy. (para 224)

To ensure that contingency planning at all levels is kept up-to-date and takes account of the latest developments, the Minister in the Scottish Executive with responsibility for animal health, should establish an independent standing committee to monitor this work and to assess the effectiveness of mock exercises. (para 225)


Chair: Professor Ian Cunningham
OBE, CBE, BSc, PhD Drhc, FRSE, FIBiol, FRAgS, HonAssocRCVS, FRSGS: Former Principal, West of Scotland Agricultural College, Ayr; Professor of Agriculture, Glasgow University.

Vice-Chair: Professor Gavin McCrone CB, MA, MSc, PhD, LLD, FRSE: Visiting Professor at University of Edinburgh Management School.


Professor Ian Aitken OBE, BVMS, PhD, DVM&S (hc), MRCVS, FIBiol, FRAgS: (from 19/2/2002): Scientific Director, Edinburgh Centre for Rural Research; Former Director, Moredum Research Institute.

Professor Sir James Armour CBE, PhD, FRSE, FRCVS, FmedSci, Drhc, HonDVMS, HonDUniv, HonFIBiol: Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Parasitology & former Dean of Glasgow University Veterinary School and Vice-Principal, University of Glasgow.

Professor Brian Ashcroft
BA, MA: Director, Fraser of Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde.

Dr Jean Balfour CBE, BSc (Hons), DSc, FRSE, FICFor, FIBiol, JP: Former Chairman, Countryside Commission for Scotland & Partner, Balbirnie Home Farms.

Mr Ivan Broussine: Chief Executive, Scottish Tourism Forum.

Professor Sir David Carter MD, HonDSc, HonLLD, FRSE, FRCSE, FRCS, FRCPSG, FRCPE, HonFACS, HonFRCSI: Vice-Principal, University of Edinburgh & Former Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Executive.

Dr W James Irvine BSc(Hons), MB ChB(Hons), DSc(Edin), FRSE, FRCPE, FRCPath(London), FlnstBiol, FlnstDirectors(London): Farmer and former Consultant Physician, Endocrine Unit/ Immunology Labs (Medicine), Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

Dr Barbara Kelly CBE, DL, Dip Ed, Hon LLD Strathclyde, Hon LLD Aberdeen: Partner in farming enterprise near Dumfries; Convenor Southern Uplands Partnership; past Board Membership, SNH.
Professor Donald JR MacRae BSc (Hons) MBA FCIBS FRAgS: Strategy & Finance Director Lloyds TSB Scotland. Visiting Professor in Business & Economic Development at the University of Abertay Dundee.

Dr William Martin PhD (Glas), DVMhc (Perugia), HonDMed, DVSM, HonDVMS (Edin, Glasgow) FRSE (from 14/12/2001-23/1/2002) Former Director, Animal Diseases Research Association, Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh.

Professor Jeff Maxwell
OBE, BSc, PhD (Edin), FRSE, FRSGS: Former Director, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute.

Dr Laura Meagher: Consultant & Senior Partner, Technology Development Group.

Mr David Mitchell: (resigned 27/6/2002) Farmer and Chairman, NFU Scotland Livestock Committee.

Dr Peter Nettleton BVMS, MSc, PhD, MRCVS: Virus Surveillance Unit, Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh.

Professor Stuart Reid BVMS, PhD, DiplECVPH, FRSE, MRCVS: Professor of Veterinary Informatics and Epidemiology, University of Glasgow Veterinary School and University of Strathclyde

Dr Robert Sellers MA, ScD (Cantab), BSc, PhD (Edin), FRSE, MRCVS, FIBiol: Former Director, Animal Virus Research Institute, Pirbright, Surrey

Secretary: Mr Loudon Hamilton
CB, MA: Former Secretary, Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department


The remit of the group carrying out the work has been to investigate the outbreak, spread and control of the disease in Scotland with particular regard to:

  1. The organism and the disease
  2. Methods of control
  3. Impact on the economy generally
  4. Impact on tourism
  5. Lessons for the future


The RSE set up the independent expert committee at the instigation of the President and Council of The Royal Society of Edinburgh. It met for the first time at the Society on Friday 14th December 2001. It has investigated the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Scotland, the control procedures employed and the impact that has had on the Scottish economy. The Committee has consulted widely and organisations and individuals with relevant experience have given evidence to one or other of its two subcommittees: a Biological and Disease Control Committee and an Economic Impact Committee. Well attended public meetings were held in Dumfries on Monday 11th March 2002 and in the Borders on Tuesday 26th February 2002 in Newcastleton and Newtown St Boswells.


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