Foot-and-mouth 20 years on: Memory still haunts Yorkshire farmers

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Twenty years on from what has been described as the ''biggest agricultural disaster'' of our time, farmers across Yorkshire say they never want to see the Foot-and-mouth disease return.

Prized herds of cattle and sheep were destroyed to try and stem the outbreak but many farmers never recovered. 

The memory of the disease still strikes fear into Angus Dean, from Wharfdale. When the disease had reached his cattle, he was left with no choice but to cull everything the very same day.

''I wish it never returns, I would wish it on absolutely nobody. For all of my lifetime, I wish I never see it again.''

Credit: PA

Angus managed to eventually preserve his family's tradition which has lasted 800 years. Along with his brother and parents, he rebuilt a pedigree dairy herd and a flock of one thousand sheep.

Despite it, he said life was never the same for him or the other farmers like him.

''It wasn't just livestock from infected farms that were killed, it was also those from neighbouring farms not infected. Around 300,000 cattle, sheep and pigs were slaughtered in a 20-mile radius around Skipton just down the road from here.''

Empty stalls ate Northallerton livestock market Credit: PA
  • ''Biggest agricultural disaster of our time.''

The disease was first spotted in pigs at an abattoir in Essex on the 19th of February. It led to more than six million animals being slaughtered nationwide and tourism businesses losing millions of pounds, as the countryside was virtually closed for months. 

It has been described as the ''biggest agricultural disaster'' of our time and scores of farms across Yorkshire were affected.

Tourists were told to stay away, business was badly affected, and the Great Yorkshire Show cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.

Craven Cattle Marts in Skipton was also shut for a year and its general manager, says the impact is still being felt to this day.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has rejected claims the government was slow to react to the outbreak.

''Believe me, all the forces I had in the department were focussed on this as soon as we knew we had it to deal with. In the end, we had some 10,000 civil servants dealing with this and drwan from the armed forces, not just the Army"

  • The voice of optimism

While the events of 20 years ago has scarred many farmers to this day, there are others who are looking ahead to the future.

Georgie Fort was just 12 years old when she witnessed the heartbreak of her family's livestock being culled. Now a dairy farmer, it has not deterred her.

The epidemic was to last for seven long months, with the country's final case reported near Appleby on September 30th.