The truth is out there

03 May 2001
The truth is out there

The foot-and-mouth mess is still hitting the headlines. Just as importantly, perhaps, it is hitting the bottom lines of many hospitality businesses. That means it's essential to make sure you have the best and most up-to-date information, and the Internet has it all - if you know where to look.

The trouble is that the Internet is the world's greatest encyclopaedia with the world's worst index.

This frustrating fact aside, a bit of time, effort and healthy use of a couple of good search engines means everything should be right at the fingertips and bang up-to-date. So here are just a few of the main sources of information and help on foot-and-mouth that should go straight into anybody's Favourites folder.

This is the official government site for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and is the main source of information on the spread of the disease and what's being done about it. It's not the easiest site to find your way around and if you're not careful you can stumble across pictures of blistering sheep lips, but just click on the "Foot-and-mouth latest" button in the top right hand corner and it's pretty straightforward from there.

Another government site, this is the Countryside Agency and has the latest information on the footpaths, rights-of-way, etc that are open. This is a much easier site to negotiate than the MAFF one, thanks to the map that will take you straight to the information for your area. It's not entirely comprehensive, however, and often makes you click through to the local council site.

If there's one phrase that has become the cliché of this crisis it's "Britain is open for business" and that's the mantra of this hastily set-up government site. It's aimed at mainly overseas visitors but contains a lot of information for domestic tourists as well. It's all very cheerful as you would expect and, despite its really tiny writing, has all the latest on the attractions that are open, such as Alton Towers, Edinburgh Zoo, Tatton Park, etc. Updated regularly and extremely handy, it's the kind of site that makes you wonder why it's taken a crisis for the government to put it together.

The site for the British Hospitality Association (BHA) is a useful resource to find out the industry's position on the disease. The BHA is a powerful body when it comes to lobbying the Government and has been quite outspoken during the outbreak. Click on the "latest news" link to find out what's being done on your behalf.

The Web site for the Citizen's Advice Bureau. While not an obvious first point of information, this site has a section dedicated to foot-and-mouth news, and details of an emergency contact number for people or businesses suffering from the repercussions of the disease. It can help anybody looking for debt or money advice, as well as employers or employees worried about staff issues.

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