19 April 2001
Vets question disease strategy

By Isabel Davies

VETS are increasingly questioning the governments approach to controlling foot-and-mouth, and urging ministers to examine alternative strategies.

Two separate groups of vets have now expressed serious reservations about the current slaughter and eradication policy.

A group of 10 vets has submitted a letter to the Veterinary Record claiming it is now time to think the unthinkable and start using the vaccine.

The vets, who belong to the web-based discussion group vets4vaccs.co.uk, say they believe the initial policy of eradication by culling was correct.

But logistical problems in culling and disposal have not been solved, leading to subsequent serious animal welfare problems.

The vets say the current policy of eradication is not based on issues of food safety or animal welfare, but is simply an issue of cost benefit to farming.

“We are unable to reconcile the economic benefits of the current policy against the human suffering, and the millstone of social and economic costs that now burden the whole [rural] community,” says their letter.

The vets suggest that, with turn-out just around the corner, the government should introduce a vaccination strategy for cattle and sheep.

They insist that as time has passed there must be a national strategy, and not just ring-vaccination followed by slaughter.

“We need to address the fears of the farming community that under EU rules this could introduce a whole new raft of unmanageable constraints and controls.”

Meanwhile, a group of 50 vets from Devon has written to the Ministry of Agriculture pleading that cattle next to infected premises should be spared.

The letter suggests that the governments cattle culling policy is overkill and it would be better to concentrate on culling sheep instead.

The vets argue that this would be the best use of resources, because foot-and-mouth is easily spotted in cattle but not in sheep.

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