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The British 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis: a comparative study of public risk perceptions, trust and beliefs about government policy in two communities

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This mixed methodology study examines public attitudes to risk and its management during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) epidemic in Britain. A quantitative survey and qualitative focus groups were conducted to examine how two communities (Norwich and Bude) responded to the crisis. People were more concerned about a broad range of indirect consequences than about the direct (health) impacts of the disease, especially about the effects on the livelihood and future of rural economies. Moreover, people detected a complex of causes underlying the emergence of FMD, which suggests that the outbreak of FMD was considered a system failure, rather than something that could be blamed on one specific cause or actor. In general, people appeared to be critical about governmental handling of the FMD epidemic. Although there was some support for the government policy of slaughtering infected animals, the government was widely criticized for the way they carried out their policies. Only minor differences between the two communities Norwich and Bude were found. In particular, differences were found related to the government handling of the disease, reflected most notably in people's trust judgements. It is argued that these were the result of contextual differences in local experience, and debate on the crisis, in the two communities.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Environmental Risk University of East Anglia Norwich NR4 7TJ UK

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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