THERE can be no celebration in the fact that it is 20 years to this issue since we first reported that the scourge of foot-and-mouth had taken hold. It not only ravaged the Border counties of Scotland and England, but throughout Wales and other parts of England.

It is with no pleasure that we record this important anniversary, even in our own way. You will not see pictures of burning animals and mass graves in this newspaper with regard to the 2001 outbreak. Using those graphics is not justifiable.

We have, though, decided to publish some very personal accounts from some of those caught up in the horror of this epidemic. The main reason for this is that it should never be forgotten the amount of sacrifice that had to be made to bring a fast-moving situation under control.

For those who had their stock taken away from them because they had the disease, or via the contiguous cull and the 3km so-called fire-break culls, there remains a deep sense of tragedy and grieving still. From the world's oldest Galloway herd, to the aspirations of young flockmasters, it was the most brutal of eventualities.

We are conscious, also, that there is generation now who did not bear witness to the daily death toll and the fast moving machinery of death and destruction that became necessary to win this particular war. In publishing what we have done, with stories from some of those who were in the front line and who lost their stock, we hope that the next generation of farmers will understand what happened and why this was a forfeit that had to be paid.

But, as well as the farmers involved, there was a veritable army of support, from vets, to logistics experts, to Scottish Ministry of Agriculture officials, to auctioneers and valuers, and the likes of those involved in putting down the animals, taking them away and disposing of them. There were many others, too, whose mental scars will never properly heal. What they witnessed was unimaginable to the rest of us.

From the offices of The Scottish Farmer, we tried to play our own small role in informing in a studied way what was actually happening on the ground. And there were many traumatic phone calls made to our staff at all hours of the day and night, and hopefully we provided some counsel during difficult times.

If there is a bright side that we can reflect on 20 years after this horror first emerged, it is that with months of planning and contemplation, then years of hard work, the vast majority of those affected emerged determined to at least get back to where there were. Some even changed their whole farming philosophy for the better.

There are few words that we can say to those who, even now, can never forget those sickening sights, those all-pervading smells of destruction and the sheer air of despair, other than that this milestone of two decades should allow a more final closure. We can only hope that Covid-19 has regenerated future planning for such an outbreak and that a bank of vaccines lies awaiting to fight the next FMD fight, without the need for wholesale extermination ...