28 June 2002

Suspect pig in market scare

By FWreporters

A FOOT-AND-MOUTH scare which closed a livestock market and shut down dozens of farms has raised further doubts about Britains ability to cope with another outbreak of the disease.

Selby market in Yorkshire, was closed last week and restrictions imposed on 34 farms – many of then in East and North Yorkshire – after a pig was spotted with blisters on its body at Dawkins International abattoir in Congerstone, Leicestershire. Livestock restrictions were imposed on farms in a five-mile radius around the slaughterhouse.

Tests on the animal subsequently proved negative. But finding out where the pig came from was made unnecessarily difficult because it was unmarked. It is believed that the sow came from one of the 34 Yorkshire farms and then passed through Selby market. But DEFRA officials were still trying to trace the origin of the animal as farmers weekly went to press on Wednesday.

Even though the pig did not have F&M, the scare raises serious questions about why it was left unmarked. Furthermore, nobody realised that the pig was unidentifiable until it reached the abattoir. NFU leaders believe farmers must follow traceability rules if they want virus restrictions eased.

NFU livestock committee vice chairman Richard Haddock said: "The identification mark on the pig should have been checked at every stage from the time it was first picked up at the farm gate to the time it was taken in at the abattoir. Why this hasnt happened I dont know and it needs to be looked at carefully."

Samples were taken to test for F&M and swine vesicular disease at the Institute for Animal Health laboratory at Pirbright in Surrey while the government scientists brought into operation the first stage of an interim contingency plan devised after last years crisis.

But a DEFRA spokeswoman played down the fact that the sow was unmarked and that its precise origin could not be determined. "All the farms the pig could have come from were cleared so as things turned out its origin was not that important. I dont think there is any problem with the present system."

Previous scares, including one at Thirsk in March and at Yarm, Cleveland, in April, have all proved to be false alarms. &#42

Rob Simpson, local NFU spokesman, said: "Regrettably, this is the third such scare in North Yorkshire since the end of the outbreak on Sept 30 last year, and Im afraid it wont be the last."