18 April 2001
MAFF powerless to force vaccination

By Alistair Driver

MINISTRY of Agriculture officials have admitted that they dont have the legal power to force farmers to vaccinate livestock against foot-and-mouth.

A ministry spokeswoman told FARMERS WEEKLY that proposals to vaccinate cattle could only work with farmers co-operation.

“In the current position I do not think we could force people to have animals vaccinated,” she said. “But we could change the legislation.”

Downing Street has agreed “in principle” that vaccination should take place, but added that it needed widespread support from farmers before doing so.

But a decision to press ahead with the policy is unlikely until the government is satisfied it has the support of most farmers, the spokeswoman added.

The governments chief scientific adviser David King has tried to encourage farmers to agree to a vaccination policy for cattle in Cumbria and Devon.

Professor King is reported as saying that the government would need the support of at least 60% of farmers to make the scheme work

But National Farmers Union president Ben Gill remains opposed to a vaccination programme, claiming that it could have damaging consequences.

Mr Gill said: “At the moment there is too little reliable information available to enable farmers to make an informed decision.

“Without full and proper answers to all our questions, farmers are effectively being asked to take a leap of faith.”

He added: “There is a possibility it could actually spark more outbreaks and it is highly likely that it will delay the resumption of exports considerably.”

It is likely that livestock producers in areas free from foot-and-mouth would face extended restrictions if such a programme was introduced.

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