Monday, 6 August 2007

Foot and Mouth Disease

OK - the facts... There has been a confirmed outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) at a farm in Surrey. The Government has imposed an immediate protection and surveillance zone and a ban has been placed on the movement of pigs, sheep and cattle. Advice from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is that FMD is not a direct public health threat and the Food Standards Agency considers that FMD has no implications for the human food chain. During the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001, the tourism industry suffered dramatically alongside farming. However, much of the suffering caused to tourism businesses was unnecessary and caused by a media frenzy which created public confusion and concern. Sensationalist headlines and negative images of livestock being burned by the roadsides caused visitors to stay away in droves and resulted in the perception that the countryside was closed. Efforts must be taken to ensure that we do not see a mass closedown of the countryside, which was witnessed in 2001, and we must stress that visitors can and should continue to enjoy the countryside. The authorities must learn from the outbreak in 2001 and to prevent FMD devastating the tourism economy in Yorkshire once again. The Yorkshire Tourist Board is working closely with the media to ensure that reporting is accurate and editors take a responsible approach to covering the emerging situation as it may develop. All efforts must be taken to ensure that we do not see a mass closedown of the countryside, which was witnessed in 2001. Remember - as of today - there are no cases of foot and mouth disease in Yorkshire. We ask for your support in ensuring that the Yorkshire tourism industry does not suffer unnecessarily due to the national alert regarding foot and mouth disease. We urge you to work with us and ensure that we counter any negative perceptions together by engaging the industry and providing up to date accurate information. There is nothing to prevent people travelling into and enjoying the countryside. You will find nothing changed and you are free to enjoy its natural beauty. Farming and tourism in rural areas are interdependent. Both industries need to work together to tackle the issues arising. Lessons have been learned following the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth. The Haskin report made recommendations to the Government for handling any future outbreaks in light of how it affected tourism. Let's hope they will be put into practice!