26 April 2001
Tories query cull relaxation

By FWi staff

THE Government has been asked by the Conservatives to provide an “urgent explanation” of plans to relax its foot-and-mouth slaughter policy.

Ministers are expected to announce on Thursday (26 April) that they are easing the rules on slaughtering livestock near foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

It is understood that livestock next to infected premises will no longer have to be killed, as vets will be given more discretion in which animals are culled.

Easing restrictions would provide a reprieve for Phoenix, the 12-day-old calf which hit the headlines after surviving the cull of her herd in Devon.

This move comes as a continued decline in the number of new cases sparks optimism that the epidemic is being controlled.

But Tory agriculture spokesman Time Yeo said if there is a scientific basis for changing the policy, then it should be made public.

“A sudden change of policy will need to be fully explained if confidence in the industry and among the public about the Governments determination to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease is to be maintained,” he said.

Mr Yeo cautioned against any relaxation of policy while their was a risk that this could spread the disease.

“We understand public concern about the slaughter of healthy animals, but we believe at this stage no risk should be taken,” he said.

“Farms which border those where foot-and-mouth has been confirmed are obviously at high risk of being infected themselves.”

Tony Blair, who is travelling to Cumbria on Thursday, insisted that the Government will not let its guard drop.

In another development, Britains biggest public sector union has warned that slaughtermen affected by foot-and-mouth could sue the Government.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union said it was “highly probable” that slaughtermen would look for compensation.

Mr Morris is meeting with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown after a slaughterman was sprayed in the mouth with fluid from a dead cow.

Mr Brown is due to make a statement to the Commons of Thursday on the latest progress in the fight against foot-and-mouth.

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage