17 March 2001
Brown suspends foot-and-mouth cull
by Alistair Driver
AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has promised to visit Cumbria after suspending the mass cull of healthy animals to control foot-and-mouth disease.
Mr Brown said the mass cull of healthy livestock in a bid to control the disease would not now go ahead until the thinking behind it was explained to farmers.
There has been growing opposition to the cull, which it is being reported will see the slaughter of one million animals within 3km (1.86m) of infected farms.
Farmers in Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway have been devastated by the decision which in many cases will see generations of animal breeding destroyed.
Some are threatening to refuse access to MAFF officials turning up to cull animals on all sheep and pig farms within 3km of existing outbreaks in the region.
Mr Brown revealed at a media briefing in London that Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore will be visiting the region “within the next few days”.
“I do intend to go to Cumbria myself,” he told journalists.
Mr Brown appealed to all farmers to support the cull, saying it was necessary to eliminate the disease and would benefit everyone.
He also responded to comments by Farmers for Action leader David Handley that livestock producers should declare “all-out war” against the government
“All-out war should be against the virus,” said Mr Brown.
“We are all on the same side and I appeal to everyone to work together.”
Mr Browns pledge followed criticism from National Farmers Union president Ben Gill that he had failed to communicated properly with farmers in cull areas.
Mr Gill refused to back farmer rebellion, but said that Ministry of Agriculture officials must quell “growing disquiet” by meeting farmers face-to-face.
“They need to explain the reasons why the cull is needed,” he said.
“They also need to make it clear who is affected and who is not.”
Farmers whose land straddled the zones are unclear if they are included.
Mr Brown was also forced to apologise for indicating in a statement in the House of Commons yesterday that cattle would be included in the automatic cull.
Mr Gill said this had caused “immense distress” to farmers in the region.
The government is also working to alleviate the stress caused by the rotting carcasses being left on farms for up to six days after slaughter.
Mr Brown acknowledged it will be an even greater logistical task to remove extra carcasses in areas hit by the extended cull.
“We are trying to get up to speed on this,” said the minister. But the key thing is to get the animals dead so they cannot spread the virus.
Mr Brown said MAFF was getting logistical help from the armed forces, while increasing numbers of carcasses will be going to rendering plants and landfill sites.
Junior farm minister Baroness Hayman announced that farmers could start applying over the weekend for licences to move animals over 5km.
Move for welfare reasons, under strict supervision, should start on Monday or Tuesday (19-20 March). A welfare disposal scheme will take longer to set up.