12 March 2001
Cull threat to half-million sheep
By Alistair Driver and Donald MacPhail
UP TO 500,000 sheep could be culled as agriculture minister Nick Brown responds to mounting criticism over his handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Culling is one option which could be used to deal with sheep placed under movement restriction because of the disease, he said on Monday (12 March).
The problem will intensify as lambing reaches its peak. Up to 500,000 of Britains 20 million sheep are in areas hit by foot-and-mouth.
Animals in areas unaffected by the disease can only be moved 5km under special licences. But animals in infected areas cannot be moved at all.
Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore said he recognised there was a conflict between animal welfare and controlling the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
But controlling the outbreak was definitely the priority, he added.
Mr Brown said he was considering whether additional culls of livestock around infected farms would also help efforts to control the disease.
At the moment, animals are only killed on infected holdings and nearby farms which have been designated as “dangerous contacts”.
However, some farmers believe mandatory culling should be introduced for all livestock within a certain distance of any confirmed outbreak.
They believe that such a policy would stop the disease spreading laterally.
Nine new cases of the disease have been announced, taking the total number of outbreaks to 173 at 1300hrs on Monday (12 March).
Three outbreaks of the disease were recorded in Cumbria, with single cases in six other counties, according to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF).
The Cumbrian cases were confirmed at Wigton, Huddon and Holme Cot.
The other cases were in Lancashire, Staffordshire, Wiltshire, Herefordshire, Devon, and Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.
A total of 155,000 animals have been earmarked for slaughter, of which 116,000 have been culled, according to MAFF figures.
Mr Brown acknowledged that more cases would be confirmed in the coming days but repeated earlier assertions that the disease is under control.
“There is a lot of disease incubating, all we can do is control it.”
Mr Brown added: “Movement restrictions have controlled a lot of the infection and then there has been quarantine and slaughter.”
The minister said it would be a long haul before the crisis was over. But he rejected suggestions that the number of outbreaks had reached epidemic levels.
Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage