20 March 2001
Appeal as Britain runs out of vets
By FWi staff
BRITAIN is urgently trying to recruit more vets from overseas because there are not enough to cope with the countrys worsening foot-and-mouth crisis.
Agriculture minister Nick Brown said a shortage of vets was hampering the fight against the disease which rose to 361 outbreaks on Tuesday (20 March).
There was a bottleneck in the destruction of livestock, he said.
Mr Brown said 70 overseas vets had already been brought into the country and 40 more would follow as quickly as possible.
A further 120 final-year veterinary students were already working and another 80 students would follow, he told a media briefing in London.
Part of the problem is that vets are not allowed to move to other farms within five days of visiting an infected holding, said Mr Brown.
The government has already reduced this quarantine period to three days in Cumbria and is now considering whether to reduce it further.
Meanwhile, a shortage of personnel is adding to the backlog of infected animals and carcasses building up on farms in Cumbria and Devon.
So far, the government has authorised the slaughter of 319,436 animals.
But 95,872 of those animals are awaiting slaughter. The carcasses of a further 63,690 animals are rotting on farms while waiting for disposal.
It is talking almost two days to slaughter animals after the disease is confirmed, and a further two days before the carcasses are disposed.
Mr Brown said he was negotiating with farm leaders the possibility of valuing livestock stock on a single tariff to speed up the slaughter process.
“We are looking at a getting an agreed yardstick on certain categories of animals, rather than having flocks done individually.”
Mr Brown said the government was trying to be fair to ordinary farmers without taking anything away from premium breeders.
Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said the government should make more use of troops helping dispose of carcasses in Cumbria and Devon.
“Their skills and resources are still not being used in the most effective way possible,” he said. “A handful of soldiers in an advisory role is not enough.
“They potentially have a vital part to play in the burial of carcasses.
Mr Yeo added: “We called for this to be done nine days ago, and delayed action has meant a dramatic increase in the backlog of carcasses.”
“This situation could have been avoided had the Minister for Agriculture acted more decisively. This situation is now out of control.
“The livestock industry at the moment is in peril. The countryside needs action, not confusion or half-hearted measures.”
Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage