A SUSPECTED case of foot and mouth at Gisburn Auction Mart has proved to be a false alarm.

Bells started ringing when an animal from an unidentified farm near Harrogate, which had been sold through Gisburn Mart last Thursday, arrived at a slaughterhouse in Oldham.

A vet at the slaughterhouse was concerned about the animal and contacted the State Veterinary Service's (SVS) office in Preston.

Sales were halted at Gisburn while a clinical examination of the animal was carried out.

A spokesman for SVS said the vet had become concerned about the animal as it displayed potential foot and mouth symptoms. However, on detailed clinical examination, the vet was able to rule out the disease.

"Another animal from the same farm was still at Gisburn and so that animal was examined and colleagues from our Leeds office went to the farm to carry out a thorough investigation there," he added.

All the tests proved negative and the market was able to open again just after 6pm.

The SVS spokesman said the co-operation from both the auction market staff and farmers affected by the scare had been exceptional. "They were all very good and co-operated fully with us," he added.

* An 18-month study into the effects of foot and mouth show it was a human tragedy as well as an animal one.

The survey, published online today (Friday) by the British Medical Journal's Online First, was carried out by researchers from Lancaster University's Institute for Health Research.

It looked into the psychological effects of the 2001 epidemic, which saw millions of animals slaughtered.

Researchers recruited a panel of 54 individuals representing a wide range of rural workers and during the following 18 months panel members wrote more than 3,000 weekly diaries.

Their reports showed that life after foot and mouth was accompanied by distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, loss of trust in authority and a sense that the value of local knowledge had been undermined.

Distress was experienced well beyond the farming community.

The survey concludes by calling for more flexibility in disaster planning, rather than the creation of new bodies.