Thousands face new virus cull
By Alistair Driver
TEN thousand livestock face slaughter after a resurgence of foot-and-mouth disease hit farms in Somerset and Devon.
The Army has been recalled to the area to cope with the cull of thousands of animals after a number of cases emerged near Tiverton, Devon.
The first outbreak was discovered in cattle at Crosses Farm, a beef and sheep unit, in Clayhanger, Devon, on Monday.
Three more nearby farms were soon discovered to be infected, one of which was just over the border in Somerset.
Others were identified as dangerous contacts and all animals will be culled.
A government spokesman said already 9500 animals on infected and nearby premises had been marked for culling. Most are sheep and cattle.
Devon NFU policy adviser Robert Dean said he feared a repeat of the Settle outbreak in North Yorkshire, which has affected over 50 farms.
“This is hugely worrying. This is an area where a lot local farmers have plots of land that are very close to each other.
“Some of them have plots of land dotted around the place that increases the risk of spread.”
The outbreaks emerged after a relatively disease-free period for the region.
Mr Dean said the origin was unknown, but speculated that the virus may have been present in sheep on one of the farms for a while.
Sixty military personnel were recalled to Okehampton Camp, on Dartmoor, to help arrange disposal of the animals.
All infected animals will go for rendering, initially at Exeter. Some dangerous contacts be buried at a site near Holsworthy, Devon.
Soldiers from the Queens Dragoon Guards had only just left the area in the belief they had seen the back of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Devon was the first area of the country to have military assistance with the disease, and at one time 350 soldiers were involved in the clean-up.
There have now been over 170 cases in Devon.
Shadow Environment Secretary Tim Yeo again accused the government of having something to hide about its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Mr Yeo accused the government of asking farmers to sign the Official Secrets Act to stop them revealing mistakes.
“The more we find out about the Governments behaviour during this crisis, the more sinister it seems,” said Mr Yeo. “What are they trying to hide?”
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