13 March 2001
Army may escort livestock to farms

By Donald MacPhail

SOLDIERS could be called in to escort livestock on to farms from winter pastures, in a new scheme to tackle foot-and-mouth being considered by ministers.

The presence of Army personnel would provide proof that movements are official, agriculture minister Nick Brown said on Tuesday (13 March).

Up to 500,000 sheep caught up under movement restrictions face slaughter in a bid to control the disease, but this scheme could provide an alternative.

“Were not looking for armed guards,” insisted Mr Brown.

“Were looking to identify licensed movements taking place and to make sure illegal movements are not taking place.”

Mr Brown played down reports that Army snipers were about to be deployed to shoot animals on open land, but admitted the services could play a crucial role.

“The idea that squads of marksmen are standing by bumping off wildlife is wrong,” said the minister

But he said Army vets are available, soldiers could supplement logistical work, and marksmen could be called on if needed to cull livestock.

Reports that farmers fearful of the infection were planning to blockade lorries bringing carcasses for rendering at Widnes, Cheshire, concerned the minister.

“I would appeal to everyone to work with the authorities rather than trying to frustrate our attempts,” said Mr Brown.

Carcasses being transported for rendering did not pose a risk, insisted the minister.

“Were not going to take risks in spreading the disease. If there was a risk, movements would not be taking place.”

Mr Brown also revealed that there were no plans to ban the import of French meat, despite the discovery of foot-and-mouth there.

Britain banned exports on discovery of its outbreak because the source and extent were unknown, said chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore.

But the French case was different, as it appeared the infection had spread from a nearby unit which imported infected British sheep last month, he said.

It was also announced that a taskforce led by Environment Minister Michael Meacher will examine the wider impact of the crisis on Britains rural economy.

Eight new cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed bringing the bring the total confirmed cases in the UK to 191.

Two outbreaks were confirmed in Dumfries & Galloway, Devon, Cumbria, with single cases in County Durham and Gloucestershire.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage