22 June 2001

Pressure for F&M vaccinations grows

By John Burns and Robert Davies

THE newly-formed National Foot-and-Mouth Group is pressing for the use of vaccination to end the F&M epidemic.

Spokeswoman Janet Bayley said: "We would like to open a dialogue with the government to consider whether limited vaccination to inoculate susceptible animals and prevent further spread of the disease would deliver disease-free status in the most sensible timescale."

Group members include representatives from farming, tourism, the rural economy and the public, who are concerned about the scale of the slaughter policy.

Dutch veterinary vaccine specialist Simon Barteling told a recent London conference that ring vaccination was a quicker and cheaper means of containing F&M than a slaughter policy.

Addressing the same meeting, organic farmer and Soil Association chairman Helen Browning warned the slaughter policy had led some of the public to regard farmers as unethical and selfish. If vaccination had been used from an early stage, with full explanation to consumers, farming would have been seen as a caring industry.

"The government wanted a move to vaccination and asked us to try to get consumers on side. I think the government felt they could not oppose the (farming) unions and wanted the green lobby to help. The need to explain vaccination more thoroughly to consumers was never addressed," said Ms Browning.

The NFUs "inaccurate bad press" about vaccination had sidelined an inexpensive, safe and effective way of controlling F&M, clinical virologist Ruth Watkins told a meeting of 650 farmers at Builth Wells, Powys.

Modern vaccine, costing about 50p/shot, could have provided firebreak protection around confirmed cases which would have held all new infections "in days not weeks," claimed Dr Watkins.

Culling all vaccinated stock would have proved unnecessary, she added.