14 March 2001
Desperate MAFF to step up cull

By Alistair Driver

MORE than 100,000 healthy sheep are likely to be slaughtered as the government steps up its desperate fight against foot-and-mouth disease.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is finalising preparations to extend a mass cull of infected livestock to healthy animals listed as dangerous contacts.

He will unveil his plans in the House of Commons on Thursday (15 March).

Government advisors are considering how many apparently healthy animals at risk of catching foot-and-mouth must be killed to stop the disease spreading.

“We need to assess how far animals that are healthy but at risk should be removed,” Mr Brown told journaists at a press briefing.

“We are looking at animals handled by dealers at the heart of the outbreak.”

They are examining the feasibility of slaughtering entire flocks of sheep which have come into contact with livestock from three markets.

The markets are Longtown, Carlisle, (15 and 22 February); Northampton (15 and 22 February); and Welshpool (19 February).

Mr Browns announcement came as the number of foot-and-mouth outbreaks climbed to 215, including the first outbreak in Cheshire.

Sheep bought from Welshpool market caused the Cheshire outbreak as well as infecting livestock in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Powys, he said.

Livestock inspections could be increased to overcome the difficulty of tracking down the disease, which is particularly hard to identify in sheep.

Any mass cull of healthy livestock would increase the pressure on resources. It is possible that animals may have to be slaughtered at dedicated abattoirs.

So far, 152,000 animals have been slaughtered or are due to be slaughtered because of foot-and-mouth. A further 37,000 animals will also be killed.

But Mr Brown was forced to admit that he did not know how many carcasses of animals already slaughtered were still awaiting destruction on farms.

Carcasses continue to be taken to rendering plant in Cheshire for incineration. A second plant at Exeter may come on stream in the next few days.

The government they may also look at a slaughter scheme to alleviate potential animal-welfare problems on overcrowded farms, hinted Mr Brown.

The problem of sheep in winter accommodation that would normally have returned to their home farms was incredibly difficult, he said.

Mr Brown will decide whether to relax restrictions in areas least affected by the outbreak such as the north of Scotland, west Wales and East Anglia.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage