27 July 2001

Deer fears of F&Min North Yorks

SCIENTISTS are blood-testing deer for foot-and-mouth amid renewed fears that the disease has spread to wildife in North Yorkshire. Government officials ordered a gamekeeper to shoot 12 wild deer at Kirby Knowle, near Thirsk, following suspicions that the animals may have contracted the disease.

The order came as new arrangements were introduced to contain F&M. The area has seen a spate of outbreaks and there is concern that the disease could spread to pigs. Around 33% of British pigs are farmed in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and the animals exhale about 3000 times more F&M virus than cattle or sheep.

Junior farm minister Lord Whitty announced further disease-control measures during a visit to Leeds, Thirsk and Northallerton on Monday (July 23). "The outbreak in North Yorkshire is of great concern, as it is close to some very large pig herds and is threatening the disease-free areas south of the Humber."

Licences will require that vehicles visiting 2700 farms in the North Yorkshire area are fully cleaned and disinfected before entering and leaving each premises. All milk tankers and some grain and feed lorries will be accompanied by government officials who will check that disinfecting is properly done.

But National Trust officials clashed with the governments Rural Task Force after it was ordered to reopen public rights of way across a deer park at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, North Yorkshire.

The 360-acre Studley Royal deer park was closed in April to try to protect the 500 red, fallow and Manchurian silka deer which roam the park to the east of the 12th century abbey, a World Heritage Site. But the Rural Task Force said footpaths in the deer park and a road which runs through should be reopened.

A spokeswoman for the National Trust in Yorkshire said: "We believe that North Yorkshire County Council should use whatever powers it has at its disposal to keep the park closed."

A spokesman for DEFRA said: "Closing footpaths in infection-free areas is not the right approach when so many local businesses have been hit so hard. We are asking local authorities to open rights of way where our vets say it is safe." &#42