10 April 2001
MAFF accused of disease cover-up

By Alistair Driver

THE government stands accused of misleading the public over the true impact of foot-and-mouth by failing to publish full statistics about slaughtered animals.

Ministry of Agriculture officials stopped publishing the figures on 28 March, since when they have stepped up a cull of animals near to infected farms.

The Animal Health Distribution Association (AHDA) told FARMERS WEEKLY that failing to publish the figures amounted to a deliberate cover-up.

Roger Dawson, AHDA secretary general, said “This gives the impression that the disease is under control and that numbers are flattening off and going down.”

The total number of confirmed outbreaks now is nearly 1200.

But well over 3000 farms have seen all livestock killed, if premises listed as dangerous contacts are included in the figures, claimed Dr Dawson.

Livestock on up to eight farms around infected premises are currently being slaughtered for each newly confirmed case of foot-and-mouth, he said.

Some of these nearby farms are likely to have the disease but – conveniently for MAFF – they will not show up in any figures, said Dr Dawson.

As a result, companies represented by AHDA that sell animal health products to farmers are struggling to keep track of what is happening.

A MAFF spokeswoman said the ministry was trying to update its database to include dangerous contacts. But she was unable to say when they would reappear.

The statistics on dangerous contacts had been withdrawn when it became too difficult to use the statistics to paint an accurate picture of the situation, she said.

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