Cumbrian sheep cull to go ahead

19 March 2001

Cumbrian sheep cull to go ahead

By FWi staff

CHIEF veterinary officer Jim Scudamore appears to have convinced farmers in Cumbria that a mass cull of sheep is needed to combat foot-and-mouth disease.

The agreement came following a Carlisle meeting between farmers leaders and Mr Scudamore, who had travelled to the region on Monday (19 March).

Up to 300,000 supposedly healthy sheep – with the possible exception of some pedigree flocks – are now expected to be slaughtered.

Although the sheep may appear healthy, Mr Scudamore told local livestock producers that the animals may be harbouring foot-and-mouth disease.

Controlling foot-and-mouth in Cumbria was still a huge logistical problem, but Mr Scudamore defended the governments decision not to call in the Army.

“Although we need more vets, we have enough slaughtermen and will continue to use contractors for the burying process,” he said.

A stakeholder group of farmers, vets and other officials will now be set up in a bid to find the swiftest and most efficient way of tackling the disease.

Peter Allen, chairman of the National Farmers Union (NFU) hill farming committee, said nearly 90% of Cumbria farmers agreed to the extended cull.

“Todays meeting was essential to achieve a joint initiative between farmers, vets and Ministry of Agriculture to hit this disease on the head,” he said.

“Cumbria must show the rest of the UK that we are responsible farmers.

“The veterinary explanations that have been given to us this morning leave us no option but to take more stringent steps to tackle foot-and-mouth.”

Mr Allen said the extended cull would be implemented in stages, starting with the huge number of feeding sheep that are now running out of grass.

He added: “Flocks that are dangerous contacts will also be a primary target, and then we can move on to a voluntary slaughter policy.

“A lot of farmers in the county have now reached the conclusion that this is the only way forward,” said Mr Allen.

Local vet Neil Frame said the disease was “ripping through Cumbria”.

“Unless rigorous action is taken there might not be a sheep left in this county in six weeks time,” he said.

Gordon Meek, a delegate on the NFU national livestock committee, said that many farmers in northern England were now clutching at straws.

Producers who attended the meeting with Mr Scudamore had expressed concern about trying to protect some flocks in order to keep the genetics, he said.

“There is great concern about trying to keep some strong genetics. We have asked that they protect some flocks particularly genetic high-merit flocks.”

Farmers For Action co-ordinator Andrew Spence was very disappointed that he and group chairman David Handley had been barred from the meeting.

He said: “I was very disappointed that Mr Scudamore would not come out and speak to us and that he sneaked out of the back door to avoid us.

“We did not plan to disrupt the meeting, we were just representing grassroots farmers who wanted some questions answered.

Mr Spence said he wanted to know why there had been such a delay in the disposal of carcasses, and why healthy animals were being destroyed.

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