6 November 1998

MAFFgets scrapie survey under way

MAFF is to send questionnaires to 11,500 British sheep farmers later this month in a bid to establish the extent of scrapie in the national flock, and whether there is under-reporting of the disease.

A ministry official stressed that the survey would be completely anonymous. "We are not looking to penalise anyone or check whether they are doing things correctly. What we want is a true picture of the disease so that we can tackle it properly," he said.

"We also want to find out if farmers are good at recognising the symptoms of scrapie and what percentage, if any, of their flock has suffered from the disease."

The survey is part of the package of measures MAFF initiated after its BSE advisory committee, SEAC, suggested that more work had to be done to find out if BSE had jumped from cattle to sheep. Other action included compulsory slaughter of scrapie-suspects.

The survey forms are likely to be sent to producers next week and should be returned by the end of December.