16 March 2001
Confusion as mass slaughter begins
by Johann Tasker
THE mass slaughter of livestock in a bid to control foot-and-mouth disease is mired in confusion as it emerges that some cattle will be exempt from the cull.
It is being reported that up to one million sheep, pigs and goats suspected of harbouring foot-and-mouth as the government steps up its fight against the disease.
But cattle, which were previously understood to be included in the cull, will not now be slaughtered in Cumbria, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Agriculture minister Nick Brown had created the impression that cattle would be included in the cull when he announced the slaughter on Thursday (15 March).
“Infection has been mostly concentrated in the sheep flock although there is now cattle to cattle spread in Cumbria,” he told MPs in the House of Commons.
“We must still ensure that infected animals are removed as quickly as possible and in order to do this it will be necessary to destroy animals within the 3km zones.”
Many farmers believed the announcement referred to all farm animals.
But the Ministry of Agriculture has now confirmed that only pigs and sheep within 3km of infected farms will be killed in the north of England.
However, all livestock including cattle will be destroyed if they came in contact with infected animals at Northampton, Longtown and Welshpool markets.
In Scotland, 200,000 sheep – equivalent to 2% of the Scottish flock – will be shot on farms – mainly around the towns of Canonbie and Lockerbie.
In Devon, veterinary experts will visit all farms within 3km on all infected farms every two days in an attempt to identify the disease as soon as it appears.
Ministry officials also hope to destroy all animals which came into contact with livestock from Devon dealer Willie Cleave and Herefordshire dealer Kevin Feakins.
Mr Brown said he would consider modifying restrictions in disease-free areas provided that those areas remained clean over the next seven to 10 days.
The minister said he was deeply conscious of animal welfare problems posed by livestock movement restrictions put in place to control foot-and-mouth.
A welfare slaughter scheme will pay about 70% of the market value for their livestock an amount which will anger farmers forced to shoot healthy animals.
A scheme for moving livestock, including pregnant ewes ready for lambing, is expected to result in the issuing of licences over the weekend.