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'Carnage by computer': the blackboard economics of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic

Campbell, David and Lee, Robert 2003. 'Carnage by computer': the blackboard economics of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. Social and Legal Studies 12 (4) , pp. 425-459. 10.1177/0964663903012004002

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The foot and mouth disease (FMD) epidemic in the UK in 2001 had devastating consequences, including the slaughter of millions of animals and huge losses to the rural economy. The regulatory policies devised to deal with FMD so gravely misconceived the magnitude of the risk that an outbreak was destined to become an epidemic. This article seeks to draw lessons for regulatory policy by examining the nature of the disaster and the chosen methods of control both before and during the epidemic. It rejects the analysis of the epidemic offered by the government agency responsible and argues that the policies adopted provide a classic example of Coase’s notion of ‘black-board economics’. The public interventions, although appearing to work splendidly in the abstract, showed little sensitivity to the conditions actually prevailing in modern livestock rearing, and as a result their consequences were not merely imperfect but actually pernicious. We reach the sad conclusion that few lessons have been learned from the outbreak, as the very practices largely responsible for the epidemic are still prevalent, and as legislation and contingency planning show signs of a preparedness merely to repeat the same mistakes.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0964-6639
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 15:35

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