Cumbria awaits foot-and-mouth news

31 March 2001

Cumbria awaits foot-and-mouth news

By Jeremy Hunt, north-west England correspondent

SIGNIFICANT developments in the foot-and-mouth crisis are expected on farms in north-west England which have been worst-hit by the disease.

The vaccination option will be aired on Saturday (31 March) when National Farmers Union president Ben Gill visits producers in Cumbria.

Mr Gill says too many questions remain unanswered on the issue of whether vaccination should be used in the fight against foot and mouth.

But the outcome of a judicial review concerning the legal validity of culling healthy sheep as an alternative to vaccination could also have far-reaching implications.

Proceedings in the judicial review are due to begin on Monday (2 April).

Farmers in Cumbria are split over several issues including vaccination and the continuing mass pre-emptive cull of healthy sheep.

Some producers are questioning the rate at which healthy sheep are being slaughtered in an attempt to reduce the spread of the disease.

It is believed that about 4,000 sheep a day are being slaughtered. But some farmers say rate of slaughter is not high enough to stop the spread of the disease.

With almost 300,00 sheep still to be killed farmers who were in favour of the cull in theory are now beginning to doubt that it is having any impact in practice.

Owners of hefted flocks of sheep in the Lake District fear that if the disease spreads into the fells it will be impossible to track.

The wholesale slaughter of sheep and deer on a massive scale to try and totally eradicate it from some of the most remote regions would be impossible to achieve.

Piles of dead sheep lying in gateways and by road continue to alarm farmers who say the sheer magnitude of the outbreak is outstripping resources needed to control it.

Farmers are desperate for more information on vaccination and say they should have been given more facts to enable them to make a balanced decision.

While many remain opposed to vaccination others feel it has to be introduced immediately and particularly to help control spread into the Lakeland fells.

Farmers say they are concerned about the risk of spread of foot and mouth via the smoke that now billows from the burning pyres across the county.

And they need guidance on land management.

Farmers are unsure whether land can be ploughed and slurry applied on fields where livestock has been removed either through the cull or from infection.

Some fear ploughing will only seagulls which could increase the risk of spread.

Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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