9 March 2001

Continent reacts to keep disease at bay

WIDESPREAD slaughtering of livestock continued on the continent this week as other member states stepped up their efforts to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

In France, for example, the authorities continued with the destruction of some 30,000 homebred sheep, which had had contact with the 20,000 British sheep already culled.

Cattle were also caught in the clampdown, including 90 animals on a farm in the Rhone department and 140 in a herd in lAllier.

Exclusion and surveillance zones were thrown up around the farms concerned, with farmers compensated at a rate of 500 franc/head (£48/head) for sheep and 5000 franc/head (£483/head) for cattle.

The French government confirmed at the start of the week that blood tests on slaughtered British sheep on nine farms in the Cher, Mayenne, lOise, Vienne and Seine-Saint-Denis departments had revealed foot-and-mouth antibodies. "This shows that some of these animals had contact with the virus," said a government statement. "But that does not necessarily signify that they were contaminated."

Since then, several French farms have had animals tested as foot-and-mouth suspects, but by the time FW went to press on Wednesday, all had proved negative.

"It is essential to maintain maximum protection, even though this is very distressing for French producers," said main French farmers union, the FNSEA on Wednesday, in support of their governments policy.

Other countries, including Ireland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Spain, have all culled British cattle, sheep and pigs this week as they continue the mop-up operation.

The Irish Republic has been on particular alert, following the confirmation of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth on a farm just a few miles from its border in Northern Ireland.

Farms in north Louth – adjacent to Northern Ireland – have been sealed off and the area placed under veterinary supervision. Large numbers of police and army personnel have been patrolling all border areas to prevent any illegal stock movements.

So far some 1600 animals imported from the UK have been tracked sown and killed as a precautionary measure.

Over 6000 animals have also been destroyed in Holland, according to government sources, mostly UK-origin pigs and sheep together with all other livestock on the farms affected.

The commission in Brussels has applauded the swift action taken by all member states. "The absence of any cases in continental Europe is encouraging, but extreme vigilance continues to be necessary," it said. &#42