26 October 2001
Ministers plan ram cull in scrapie fight

By Alistair Driver

RAMS susceptible to scrapie will be culled or castrated under government plans to regain confidence after the fiasco surrounding its BSE tests.

Ministers have prepared an Animal Health Bill which aims to accelerate the National Scrapie Plan and breed the disease out of the national flock.

The Bill, to be introduced within weeks, would give the government powers to remove genotypes of sheep susceptible to scrapie from the national flock.

Scrapie eradication started this summer on a voluntary basis open only to registered pedigree-sheep flock owners.

But only 4700 farmers – 30% of those eligible – have signed up, and the government is considering opening it to non-registered pedigree flocks.

The intention is to force farmers to have sheep tested for scrapie resistance, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A spokesman for the department added: “Any rams that are susceptible will be castrated or slaughtered.”

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association said it would be a mixed blessing if every susceptible sheep were eradicated.

“It will have some advantage as long as it does not take out too many sheep that have important merits for commercial purposes.”

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