by Angharad Evans, Welsh Editor
It is a remarkable coincidence that efforts to eradicate Covid-19 coincide with the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, and the destruction of agriculture in 2001 that left scars on Welsh agriculture that will last a lifetime.
To mark the occasion, Corner Clecs had the opportunity to ask Arwyn Owen, former FUW Director of Policy, and Alan Gardner, Chair of the union's Livestock, Wool and Markets Committee in 2001 about their personal memories of the period:-
Where have the last twenty years gone, will be the refrain from many as we look back to the year 2001 and remember the catastrophic impact of foot and mouth disease on life in Wales. Many of the emotions that people felt at that time have been at the forefront of our thoughts as Covid brought everyday life to a standstill in 2020. In both instances, livelihoods have been destroyed and people have lived in fear of an invisible enemy, never knowing when or how it would strike next. For me, the hardest part of my job in 2001 was witnessing people who had done everything within their power to keep foot and mouth out of their flocks and herds having to deal with the consequences of a breakdown. It is easy to look back and simply measure the impact in terms of bare statistics. Behind each confirmed case was a farming family, behind the raw details of animals slaughtered lay many years of meticulous breeding and beyond the immediate impact of the disease lay many questions about the future. The impact on the wider community was often less visible but equally severe. As in 2020, shows were cancelled, social events limited and isolation, whilst good for disease control, caused real suffering for many.