26 April 2001
Government relaxes slaughter policy

By FWi staff

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has announced a relaxation of the governments slaughter policy to control foot-and-mouth disease.

It will now be up to local veterinary officials whether animals on farms next to a confirmed foot-and-mouth outbreak must be culled, he told MPs

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday (26 April), Mr Brown insisted: “This development is not – as some have reported – a relaxation.”

He added: “Its purpose is improve the achievement of the policy by refining the instructions given to staff.”

All animals which are dangerous contacts would still be killed – including animals on a significant number of neighbouring farms, said Mr Brown.

On other contiguous premises, susceptible animals will be killed. Cattle may, however, be spared if there is adequate biosecurity.

Mr Brown said: “This will be a matter for local veterinary judgement, taking account of all the circumstances.”

The announcement can be expected to provide some relief from the automatic slaughter of cattle, he added.

But they will not lead to change in the policy of culling pigs and sheep on contiguous premises, Mr Brown said.

“Pigs pose a high disease risk and can spread the virus. Sheep can carry the disease without showing symptoms, thereby causing further undetected spread.”

Mr Brown also revealed that, as of 30 April, payments under the Welfare Disposal Scheme will be revised downwards to bring them more in line with the market.

The minister said farmers in infected areas were allowed to enter healthy animals into the food chain, so the vast majority now had an alternative to the welfare scheme.

It was imperative that the payment rates for the welfare scheme were not a more financially attractive option than sending animals to slaughter for meat, he said.

The rate for cull and draft ewes, new-season lamb, clean cattle and pigs will be revised to about 70% of current market prices.

For hoggets and cull sows a higher rate of 80% will be available.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo questioned the basis on which the decision had been made to change the contiguous cull rules.

He called on Mr Brown to immediately publish the advice he had been given from the chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore and chief scientist David King.

“The policy musnt be relaxed until it is safe to be so,” Mr Yeo said.

“We support any steps that save healthy animals providing that these steps to not help further the spread of the disease.”

Mr Yeo also called on Mr Brown to explain how the Ministry of Agriculture was calculating livestock slaughter and disposal figures.

He said he understood MAFF had changed the definition so they could claim animals had been disposed of as soon as they reached a dispoal site.

Mr Yeo said if this was the case the governments claim that the situation was getting better had to be questioned.

“If one set of figure has been manipulated it casts doubt on the others.”

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