19 April 2001
Vaccination rift prompts peace plea

By FWi staff

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has appealed for calm after the government postponed plans to vaccinate cattle against foot-and-mouth.

His plea came as the governments chief scientist said that the disease was now fully under control, but repeated his view that cattle should be vaccinated.

In an article to be published in FARMERS WEEKLY on Friday (20 April), Mr Brown will insist that co-operation remains the only way against the disease.

“Cool heads, responsible action and moving forward together will ensure success is delivered more quickly,” he writes.

Government chief scientist David King believes foot-and-mouth is fully under control, but has told Mr Brown that vaccination would still save more animals.

The number of daily foot-and-mouth cases has averaged 22-3 over the past week, compared with 43 at the height of the crisis, he said.

Prof King said he expected the number of daily outbreaks to halve again over the next fortnight, so there should be about 10 cases a day in two weeks time.

Nevertheless, he repeated assertions that farmers should be vigilant. Putting cattle out to pasture could increase the number of cases, he warned.

Prof King said he was personally in favour of vaccination. But it was up to farmers to decide whether it should go ahead, he added.

“The need is still there for vaccination. If we want to see more cattle on their feet at the end of the epidemic, we would vaccinate in Cumbria and Devon.”

Earlier, National Farmers Union president Ben Gill defended his unions decision not to support plans to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of cattle.

Mr Gill said he refused to support vaccination because the government had failed to satisfactorily answer more than 50 questions on the subject.

He admitted that the number of foot-and-mouth outbreaks may rise as cattle return to pasture, but said that vaccination was not necessarily the answer.

In a letter to farmers, Mr Gill writes: “Yes, there is likely to be a rise in cases when more and more cattle come out to pasture from winter housing.”

Mr Gill earlier emerged from a third day of talks with Prof King centred on whether foot-and-mouth could be eradicated without resorting to vaccination.

Mr Gill said: “The battle against foot-and-mouth is being won – that is clear from the reduction in outbreaks. The current policy needs to be continued.

“Going down the vaccination route would be a massive gamble, and we do not believe the odds have changed following todays meeting.”

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Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage