6 August 2001
Cull terror grips Welsh hillsides

By FWi staff

THOUSANDS more sheep are to be tested in Wales as fears grow that more animals than expected have been exposed to foot-and-mouth disease.

Welsh Assembly officials are in talks with graziers about plans to extend blood tests to 100,000 sheep in the Brecon Beacons national park.

Some 10,000 sheep in the area have already been tested. More than 6000 animals have been slaughtered. Results on the other 4000 are awaited.

Farmers Union of Wales deputy president Glyn Powell indicated that the tests would be extended to south and west Wales and more animals would be culled.

“It now seems certain the virus has spread right across the national park, and heaven knows how much further,” he said.

“As testing is extended it could be found on commons in the industrialised valleys of Glamorgan and Gwent, and even close to Carmarthen.

Mr Powell added: “I am terribly afraid that farmers will have to live with an insidious, morale-sapping, creeping cull for some time to come.

“All available resources must be used to step up the testing programme. We have to know where the virus is and we must do all we can to stop it.”

Welsh Assembly officials are expected to decide over the next few days whether to increase the number of blood-tests to more than 100,000 sheep.

Further tests are likely unless those results show that the animals are free from foot-and-mouth antibodies and therefore have not been exposed to the disease.

Meanwhile, tests are continuing on up to 50,000 sheep in North Yorkshire, in a desperate attempt to prevent the disease spreading into the pig population.

National Farmers Union spokesman Rob Simpson said he believed that at least some tests on sheep around the town of Thirsk would come back positive.

He added: “The situation has sent a warning shot across the bows of many farmers and it is easy to understand why.”

Mr Simpson declined to say how many animals may be culled in the region but confirmed that there were about 350,000 sheep in area.

Almost 3m sheep have been culled because of foot-and-mouth. The government has warned that the total bill from the crisis could reach 2.3bn.

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