3 August 2001
Emergency plan to reopen landfills

By Wendy Owen, north-east England correspondent

FOOT-and-mouth burial sites could be reopened and new funeral pyres built to deal with a surge in outbreaks of the disease, it has emerged.

A secret document revealing plans to dispose of millions more animals due to foot-and-mouth and BSE was uncovered by a newspaper in north-east England.

The report suggests burial sites could be re-opened by the autumn unless foot-and-mouth has not died down. It was discovered by the Northern Echo.

The document also describes methods for the disposal of 40 million sheep if the British flock is found to be carrying BSE.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that the document had been drawn up for contingency purposes.

The “plans are not an epidemiological assessment, nor a prediction, they are looking at the worst case scenario,” he said.

Experts had been working for some time on the plans, which would require the large-scale use of burial sites, the spokesman admitted.

“The Department needs to be fully prepared to ensure that any disease flare-up does not lead to delays in slaughter and disposal,” he said.

The document describes four scenarios:

If the North Yorkshire outbreak remains at about three new cases a day, most carcasses would be rendered but existing mass burial sites might be reopened.

But if the number of cases increases to five a day, this would involve more than 13,000 tonnes of carcasses a week and new burial sites would be opened.

Such a move could lead to public protests from local residents and MPs, the document warns. Many people believe the burial sites are health hazard.

The most frightening scenario is the prospect of a huge outbreak in East Yorkshire and Humberside, and an increase in foot-and-mouth elsewhere.

The document says the government would then lease private incinerators and possibly restart burning to dispose of more than 20,000t of carcasses a week.

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