1 August 2001
Cull triggers new vaccination call

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

A SECOND cull of sheep in the Brecon Beacons has triggered renewed calls for livestock to be vaccinated against foot-and-mouth rather than slaughtered.

Members of five graziers associations are dismayed that the go-ahead was given to kill 1500 sheep just days after 4000 animals were culled.

Edwyn Harris, chairman of a 15-member group with rights on common land near the disease hotspot at Libanus, said vaccination should be introduced.

Calls for a policy change are also being encouraged by fears that the disease could spread south and west towards land in Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire.

Mr Harris acknowledged that some graziers were opposed to vaccination.

But he added: “Others like me believe that, with exports unlikely to start again for several years, a limited scheme for hefted flocks is the best way forward.”

Mr Harriss 1000 ewes were slaughtered on their home farm, which is contiguous with one that had a confirmed case of foot-and-mouth.

Another six association members have lost 4000 animals, but the rest are waiting for blood test results from the 6000 ewes they have on the open hill.

“Many people believe the disease has already spread over a wide area and we could see the cull of 100,000 sheep in the Brecon Beacons,” said Mr Harris.

Janet Bayley, spokeswoman for the pro-vaccination Foot and Mouth Group, said the cull was tearing the heart out of the Welsh hills and their communities.

Group members have already presented a proposal for a limited vaccination scheme for hefted flocks to the Welsh Assembly and European Commission.

The document was prepared in consultation with clinical virologist Dr Ruth Watkins and other disease specialists.

It suggests that vaccination it would deliver rapid control of the disease, break the cycle of acute infections and prevent further spread.

But Wales rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones rejected the plan.

Vaccination would not protect animals incubating the disease, and would prolong the ban on exports of livestock and meat from the UK, he said.

Mr Jones also rejected the idea of sealing off the Beacons and letting the disease burn itself out, saying that doing so would risk of virus escaping.

But he is considering a suggestion that only sheep with antibodies in their blood should be killed, and the rest quarantined for retesting after 14 days.

If this policy had been in force fewer than 500 of the first 3500 sheep tested on the open grazings would have been culled.

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