Blair hints at vaccination plan

27 March 2001

Blair hints at vaccination plan

By FWi staff

TONY BLAIR has given the strongest indication yet that the government may begin vaccinating livestock as it steps up the fight against foot-and-mouth disease.

Supporters say vaccination could ring-fence outbreaks, but detractors argue that it would delay Britains winning back its disease-free status.

Many countries refuse to import meat and livestock from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is present. Britains export market is worth 400 million a year.

Without vaccination, it would take three months after the last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth for Britain to be officially declared free of the disease.

With vaccination, that period of time would increase to a minimum of one year if the animals were culled, or two years if they were not.

The Prime Minister admitted that ministers and the farming community have had to review their attitudes to vaccination as the crisis has worsened.

“A few days ago, this was generally regarded as anathema to very large parts of the farming community,” Mr Blair told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

“As you track the disease and see how it spreads, things that may have seemed utterly unpalatable a short time ago, have to be on the agenda.”

Vaccination could be included in a series of measures expected to be announced by agriculture minister Nick Brown on Tuesday (27 March).

A ban on the use of pigswill and restrictions on the movement of sheep within 21 days of sale are also thought to be among initiatives.

Mr Blair insisted that the Government was making the maximum effort to eradicate foot-and-mouth.

He said: “I can tell you that every single sinew, every resource of Government it being put to dealing with it.”

He said there was “no doubt at all” that sheep movements zig-zagging across he country had made the epidemic much worse than 1967 outbreak.

The Prime Minister rejected claims that the Government was not doing enough to help farmers.

He said 600m in agrimoney compensation had been paid by Labour, while the previous Government paid “not one penny piece”.

And the Prime Minister pledged to stand by farmers after the crisis and rebuild the industry. “We will not leave people alone in this,” vowed Mr Blair.

“We will sit down and work out how we can best help, financially and otherwise, through what is going to be an immensely difficult time over the next few months.”

“The farming industry is vitally important to our rural communities.

“Farmers arent simply people who work the land for profit, they are also guardians of the countryside. They occupy a very, very important place.”

Meanwhile, The Times claims that infected smuggled meat sold in a Chinese restaurant which ended up in pigswill is the most likely source of the outbreak.

There were 649 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth by 10.00 on Tuesday (27 March).

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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