18 January 2002

FAWCsays its time for tighter border control

GOVERNMENT advisers are urging ministers to implement strict biosecurity measures like those used in Australia and the USA to prevent another foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The Farm Animal Welfare Council believes border controls must be improved in a bid to stop the disease getting into the country again. "Every possible effort must be made to prevent the introduction of F&M and any other significant exotic disease into Great Britain," it says in a report.

The document, Foot and Mouth Disease 2001 and Animal Welfare: Lessons for the Future, voices concern about the risks from imported meat. The government should look to countries with recognised disease-free status, for example the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and review the biosecurity arrangements they have in place, it adds.

The report, published on Jan 14, makes 28 recommendations on how a future disease outbreak should be handled. "Customs and Excise establishments at ports and airports should be strengthened to increase the effectiveness of import controls," it recommends.

The now-disbanded MAFF was not fully prepared for the scale of the 2001 outbreak, says the report. Improved contingency plans must be developed and rehearsed annually, it suggests. Vets should be signed up to act as a reserve force of the State Veterinary Service (SVS).

Members of the council said the army should have been involved from the outset to sort out logistical problems in tackling the disease. Other recommendations include drawing up a strategy for how animals should be killed in the field. The quicker a cull is carried out the better it is for the animals involved, they said.

The government should consider the establishment of a trained reserve of field slaughtermen for rapid deployment in emergencies, it adds. While there is no outbreak the public should also be given reassurance that animals which have been vaccinated can safely enter the food chain. &#42