This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series.
When highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease was found in pigs and an Essex abbatoir in February 2001, it sparked a crisis which led to millions of animals being killed and burned.
The outbreak - which delayed the General Election and led to rights of way being closed across Britain to contain the disease - was the worst agricultural crisis in decades.
Government contingency plans were based on an outbreak at 10 farms - but when samples were found in 27 pigs at Cheale Meats abattoir, the highly contagious and deadly disease had already spread to more than 50 farms.
Millions of healthy animals were slaughtered in an effort to contain the illness, and tourism in areas such as the Lake District was devastated as footpaths were closed off.
The outbreak, which was declared over on this day in 2002, was the world’s single biggest foot-and-mouth epidemic, and the largest animal disease epidemic in Britain in modern times.
Vets travelled to farms in infected areas, testing animals for the disease, and culling entire herds where infected: in total six million animals were slaughtered, according to official records.
Some have suggested that the true total could be far higher - up to 10 million.
Christine Middlemiss, now Britain’s Chief Veterinary Officer, was a newly qualified vet at the time.
She told the Observer last year, ‘I volunteered as a temporary veterinary inspector at 4pm and was told to report to a farm in Cumbria by 8am the next day.
‘’What I vividly recall is the support we got from the farmers at the time, despite the terrible news we often had to give them.
‘I would be supervising the culling of a herd, their livelihood, and yet they kept coming over to ask me if I was all right, had I eaten and would I like a sandwich. That was in the middle of what was a real heartache for them. It was remarkable.”
But many farmers were left in despair after their animals were killed.
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Farmer Alwyn Tait said at the time, 'It just makes me feel angry. The Government doesn't care at all about farmers. They think we haven't got a future on the land. We are all going to end up being park-keepers. There won't be any animals left,'
The last cases out of the 2,030 detected in the country were found on September 30.
When Northumberland - the last remaining area with foot-and-mouth - was declared free of the disease, it marked the end of the outbreak, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Ben Gill, then president of the National Farmers Union said that the removal of the ‘at risk’ status would ‘remove a long, dark shadow from the countryside.’
He said, ‘This is the news that farmers across the UK have been waiting for. We all hope that this is truly the beginning of the end of this appalling chapter.'
In the wake of the outbreak, feeding animals with swill - untreated kitchen waste - was banned, and movements of animals were more strictly controlled by law.
When foot-and-mouth came back in 2007, the outbreak was rapidly contained, and only spread to a small number of farms.
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