17 April 2001
Blair to order emergency vaccination
By FWi staff
TONY BLAIR looks set to ignore pleas from the National Farmers Union and introduce an emergency vaccination programme against foot-and-mouth.
NFU president Ben Gill was due to meet the Prime Minister to discuss the issue on Tuesday (17 April) pending an expected announcement.
Some 500,000 cattle wintering in barns in Cumbria and Devon could be vaccinated before being turned out on to spring pasture.
Innoculating animals would take up to two weeks. But vaccination would not replace the current policy of trying to halt the disease by culling livestock.
David King, the governments chief scientific adviser, spent Easter weekend trying to persuade NFU leaders in Cumbria of the merits of vaccination.
Speaking from Cumbria, NFU livestock committee chairman Les Armstrong said farmers the area were still very nervous about vaccination.
Mr Armstrong said: Farmers do not think they are getting all the facts.
He added: If there was a meeting of all farmers with the scientific advisers I dont think there would be more than 50% support for vaccination.
Mr Armstrong said some farmers saw vaccination as a short term solution to ease livestock overcrowding problems caused by disease restrictions on farms.
But the implications for selling meat, the prospects of re-stocking, the impact on suckler sales and the effect on meat and animal exports were unclear, he said.
Some other farmers disagree.
Michael Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, said vaccination should be introduced despite objections from NFU leaders.
The government must get away from their view that the NFU is the only voice of the British farmer, he said.
It is not and does not, as its falling membership testifies.
We need to get foot and mouth beaten before it beats agriculture out of existence, ruins the rural economy and bankrupts the tourism industry.