20 April 2001
Former MAFF vet slams government

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

A FORMER Ministry of Agriculture vet has described the governments handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis as unscientific, inept and shameful.

Ken Tyrrell believes the epidemic could have been contained more quickly and the mass culling of livestock could have been avoided.

Vets visiting suspected outbreaks should have been allowed to kill animals showing clinical symptoms immediately, rather than waiting for test results, he said.

“We are all suffering from blind rage, shame and absolute horror at what has happened,” Mr Tyrrell told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“It is extremely difficult to see how the ministry could have ever got themselves into this mess.”

Mr Tyrrell said it appeared that MAFF vets, politicians and the National Farmers Union had not read a report published after the 1967 epidemic.

He is highly critical of the burning of carcasses, because of the risk of spreading disease in the smoke, and because of the delay in carcass disposal.

Transporting animals that also may be incubating the disease over long distances to mass disposal sites was a very high-risk strategy, said Mr Tyrell.

The “madness” of mass-culling livestock should stop, and all available men and machines put on standby to tackle real cases within hours, he said.

“Welfare has gone out of the window.

“We have draconian movement rules being enforced without common sense, by people who have no idea what the rules are supposed to do.”

Mr Tyrrell first encountered foot-and-mouth disease during an outbreak in 1953, two years after he left veterinary school.

In subsequent years, he helped tackled at least nine outbreaks and was seconded to work on the disease in Turkey for the United Nations.

During the 1967/68 epidemic he diagnosed many of the early cases in Cheshire before being based at Crewe to take charge of carcass disposals.

At the time he used a helicopter to make it easier for co-ordinators to get to infected farms quickly to check that work was being carried out correctly.

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