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End to foot and mouth - and the Vietnam war.


AN agricultural epidemic that cost the UK an estimated pounds 8bn officially ended at midnight on January 14, 2002. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reported that there had been no outbreaks of foot-and-mouth for more than three months.

The last recorded case of the fatal and infectious disease was in Cumbria. Also, tests on sheep flocks in Northumberland, where the disease was initially traced, proved negative. Farmers said the decision by Defra gave them new hope for the industry's future. But it would be several weeks before restrictions on livestock farmers could be lifted, and international clearance for the export trade in animals and animal products would take even longer. Rural Affairs minister Lord Whitty said: "It will be some time, probably months, before our international partners restore our trading status in the European Union and beyond as a fully foot-and-mouth free state."

Nevertheless, the National Farmers' Union said the end of the crisis removed a 'long, dark shadow' from the countryside where more than 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth had been recorded. Since the first signs of the disease were discovered on February 19, 2001 at an abattoir in Essex, more than four million animals had been slaughtered, the majority of them sheep.

So huge was the cull, the army had to be called in to organise the burning of animals on mass pyres and their burial in mass graves.

According to the Countryside Agency, the government body which works to improve the life of rural England, the outbreak cost the UK farming industry pounds 2.4bn and the cost to tourism was possibly as much as pounds 3bn. Large areas of the countryside were closed and the drop in tourism numbers triggered a wave of bankruptcies among UK businesses, who depend heavily on high-spending overseas visitors. Farmers criticised the government for the handling of the outbreak and not doing enough to contain the disease.

The UK regained its international status as a foot-and-mouth free country, opening the way for the full resumption of exports, in January 2002, sooner than expected.

Official figures from Defra show that six-and-a-half million animals were slaughtered.

More than pounds 1.3bn was given out to farmers as compensation. In summer 2002, four reports were published into the outbreak. The Lessons To Be Learned report criticised the government for failing to prepare for such an outbreak, and acting too slowly in their response after the first few cases were diagnosed.

Also, there had not been enough vaccines available for the millions of animals affected and the army should have been brought in sooner to deal with the crisis. A report by the National Audit Office said warnings of a shortage of vets to deal with such an outbreak went unheeded.

? ON January 15, 1973, US president Richard Nixon ordered a ceasefire in Vietnam, bringing to a close one of America's worst wars in terms of lives lost and money spent.

The bombing ceasefire in North Vietnam came following peace talks in Paris.

Dr Henry Kissinger, the president's assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington from France with a draft peace proposal.

Representatives from North and South Vietnam and the US were at the negotiating table. But it was not a clean deal, and many political issues were initially unresolved. Attacks against the North were halted, but air assaults continued against communist forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and Communist negotiators in Paris were calling for the ceasefire to be extended to these areas. On January 23, a ceasefire was agreed to take effect from midnight on January 27. The settlement called for the eventual reunification of Vietnam, permitted the South Vietnamese and Vietcong troops to remain in place and provided for the release of all American prisoners of war within 60 days - on condition American troops withdrew within the same period of time.

No mention was made of the presence of North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.

It spelled the end of American involvement in the Vietnam war, which had begun on February 12, 1955.

The death toll on both sides was horrendous. Official figures showed 45,933 American, 181,483 South Vietnam armed forces, 5,224 foreign allies and 922,290 North Vietnamese and Vietcong died - a total of 1,154,930.

The last American prisoner was freed on March 30, 1973.

Vietnam was finally reunited on April 30, 1975.


* BURNING: Casualties of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001/2. * PEACEMAKER: US president Richard Nixon signs off on the Vietnam war.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:9VIET
Date:Jan 14, 2012
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