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(Updated 26/03/01)

Foot & Mouth show venues update

by Nick Mays

“Agriculture Minister Nick Brown all but destroyed his credibility by recently announcing that the outbreak was ‘under control’, while MAFF have now authorised the destruction of healthy animals on neighbouring farms to where a confirmed outbreak occurred - irrespective of whether they have tested negative for the disease or not.”

AS FOOT and Mouth disease continues to decimate Britain’s farming stock, people can only ask when the outbreak will begin to tail off. With close on 350 confirmed cases at the time of writing, it seems that there is no consistently effective way of stopping the insidious spread of the airborne virus.


Agriculture Minister Nick Brown all but destroyed his credibility by recently announcing that the outbreak was “under control”, while MAFF have now authorised the destruction of healthy animals on neighbouring farms to where a confirmed outbreak occurred - irrespective of whether they have tested negative for the disease or not.
The Dog Fancy, too, is suffering from the knock-on effect of Foot and Mouth, with many more shows being cancelled or postponed, especially those held in rural areas.


All agricultural halls and facilities are being guided by local MAFF officials on the potential risk factor, should they stage any events which brings large numbers of people and animals together.


Already the Three Counties Showground at Malvern Worcstershire has closed its doors for the forseeable future. WELKS has been cancelled, having be due to take place between April 27th to 29th. No decision has yet been taken on the Three Counties show itself, scheduled for June 11th to 14th at Malvern. Chris Milne, Chief Executive the Three Counties showground told OUR DOGS: “All shows for the months of March and April have now been cancelled on the advice of our local Environmental Health Officer. It is with great regret that we have taken these steps, but it seems the only sensible way to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth.”


The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society at Builth Wells is in a similar position. A spokesperson for the Society said: “We are not in a position to know what he situation will be in any given number of weeks’ time. We have cancelled all events up to March 31st, but what happens after that, we cannot say. Our Chief Executive is meeting with Ministers in the Welsh Assembly (Monday) and we hope that some helpful guidelines as to our position will emerge from that meeting.” The Working Breeds and Pastoral Association of Wales show, scheduled to take place at Builth Wells on April 21st has been postponed, mainly due to the close proximity of the show time-wise and also the inability of anyone to be able to predict the spread of foot and mouth over the next few weeks.


Further south, the Christchurch and New Forest Agricultural Society’s Showground at Brockenhurst, Hampshire confirmed that no events were due to be staged at the showground for the next few weeks. However, a spokesperson added that their own New Forest show scheduled for late July was going ahead as planned at this stage, whilst the future of Bournemouth Championship dog show, due to be staged in August, was not in doubt.
One of the hardest-hit showgrounds is also the busiest one in the UK, namely the Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural society’s showground. Despite having planned to allow events to continue, with disinfecting facilities on hand for cars, people and dogs, the Society has now pursued a policy of cancellation. Chief Executive Adrian Johnstone spoke to OUR DOGS early this week.


Sounding very weary, Mr Johnstone said: “The Society’s Board of Governors, which number 40, met recently and decided, after careful deliberation, to cancel all agricultural, horse and dog shows up to mid May. This will also mean that our own County Show, due to be held on May 12-13 will not go ahead.


“We know that this was the right decision to make, although it is very distressing for everyone concerned. We are £75,000 down in lost income for the past three weeks, and the situation can only get worse with more cancellations.”


Mr Johnstone gave some crumbs of comfort for dog exhibitors however, adding; “When the outbreak is over, we will allow the re-staging of any postponed dog shows, subject to free dates being available and subject to the Kennel Club being willing to re-issue licences to the show committees. In the meantime, we will not be charging anyone for the use of facilities which they have not had, due to the cancellations.”


Birmingham National Dog Show, planned for April 12 -14, is due to be staged as planned at the NEC, However, Show Manager Jane Valentine confirmed that the situation is “under constant review”.