by Allan R. Andrews
American Reporter Correspondent
July 23, 2001
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A week after reporting that foot and mouth disease has been wreaking havoc with tourists and walkers along the Pembrokeshire Coast of Wales -- an area that comprises Great Britain's only National Park that includes long stretches of rugged coastline -- I came home to discover that the outbreak has also wrought a bit of havoc with publications in the United States.
The June issue of National Geographic Magazine featured a story called, "Wales, Finding Its Voice." The story detailed how the ancient Welsh language and the economy of tiny Cymru -- as it is known in Welsh -- are on the rise, and that the revival of the language is having an effect even in Argentina, where dwell the largest group of Welsh speakers outside of Wales.
The fascinating and upbeat story, written by Simon Worrall, made me long to return to the place I'd just visited and also made me wish I'd seen Worrall's article prior to my trip.
I did notice that little was said in the story of the problems Wales is facing with FMD. Fortunately, the article pointed to additional information on the National Geographic Website. The power of the Internet glared through again. There on the Geographic Website was a tiny link to late-breaking news related to Worrall's story under the headline, "Missed the Press."
The update, written by Ann Williams, focused on a family of cattle-and-sheep farmers who had been featured in the June edition's story. That family in Southeastern Wales faced a new concern besides weather, veterinarian bills and falling market prices, Williams wrote.
By the end of April, 2001 -- about a year after Worrall had interviewed natives for the National Geographic -- the family saw its entire stock destroyed. That included 170 head of cattle, 30 calves, 330 sheep, and 450 l ambs. That family, Williams reported, "is in better shape than many because they own their land free and clear."
Only those who keep up with the magazine's Web postings would know the darker side of Worrall's story.
Many farmers and ranchers hit by the FMD outbreak have given up returning to their livelihood and have sold their operations. The government has instituted a program to reimburse farmers for destroyed stock, but the devastating effects will keep many from continuing ranching.
As late as last week, the Welsh Assembly confirmed that 3,000 sheep are being slaughtered and that there have been 101 confirmed cases of infected farms in Wales, England's Daily Mirror reported.
In the central highlands of Wales known as Brecon Beacons, a new case of FMD was confirmed in late June, according to a report for London's Independent, just at the time many Welsh shopkeepers and local artisans were hoping the government would reopen more of the hundreds of miles of walking paths that attract summer tourists to the area.
Some paths were opened only to be re-closed again with the latest outbreak in the highlands.
Allan R. Andrews is a freelance editor and writer living in Annapolis, Md. He recently returned from a three-week trip to Wales' Southwestern coast.