21 September 2001
Chief scientist defends mass cull

By Adrienne Francis

CHIEF scientist David King has defended the governments decision to continue culling rather than introducing vaccination against foot-and-mouth.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Prof King discusses his reasons for opposing the mass vaccination of more than 40 million animals.

“Mass vaccination does not completely remove the virus,” he writes, suggesting that any element of risk would have trade implications.

Disease-free countries such as New Zealand and the USA would ask why they should even take the slightest risk of importing vaccinated animals, he argues.

Nationwide mass vaccination does not necessarily stop the disease spreading from generation to generation, Prof King continues.

“Mass vaccination would make it impossible to tell the extent to which the virus is present in the countrys livestock” he writes.

Instead, Prof King supports culling livestock, describing its level of success and raising the idea of a two-phased control system to deal with the disease.

Culling has wiped out the disease in much of the country and 77% of areas infected during the outbreak are now disease-free, he claims.

“The vaccination debate is frequently characterised as a straight choice between mass vaccination against no vaccination at all,” Prof King writes.

“Vaccination has been used overseas as a supplement to the cull policy, and the animals are often subsequently slaughtered.”

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