FEBRUARY 22, 2001. The day farmers remember with dread as it was confirmed the deadly foot and mouth diseases had reached the North East, and The Northern Echo followed it every step of the way.

A five-mile exclusion zone, which banned movement of livestock, was placed around a farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, near Newcastle.

The Government also put measures in place to curb the spread in the countryside.

Hunting was banned and people were warned to keep away from farmland in an effort to prevent an epidemic of the disease. Both city and rural dwellers were urged to stay away from livestock.

Zoos were warned to keep an eye on animals which could contract the disease, while postmen were asked to leave all mail at farm gates to avoid spreading it.

The European Commission extended the ban on Britain’s £8m-a-week exports of live animals, meat and dairy products.

The European Commission had already set a deadline of March 1 if the disease had not been totally eradicated.

Farmers that had to slaughter cattle because of the disease were promised compensation at full market value.

In June 2021, the farmers accused of starting foot and mouth ended up in court.

Bobby and Ronnie Waugh were prosecuted in June of 2001 but could keep the £50,000 compensation they received for the loss of their livestock.

They were found guilty of five charges of failing to notify the relevant authorities of foot-and-mouth disease; two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to pigs; one count of feeding his animals unprocessed waste and one charge of failing to properly dispose of animal by-products.

Bobby Waugh was banned from keeping farm animals for 15 years by a court and was also ordered to be electronically tagged for three months and to keep an overnight curfew.

Ronnie Waugh passed away later that year.

The sentence was condemned as too lenient by those in the farming community, who witnessed first hand the devastating epidemic which brought many rural communities to the brink of ruin.

Both brothers continued to claim they were being used as a scapegoat for the outbreak.

As the months and years passed, there were other outbreaks of foot and mouth in the region, but thankfully nothing as severe as the crisis in 2001.