Foot-and-mouth incineration begins

25 February 2001

Foot-and-mouth incineration begins

by Sarah Walton in Northumberland

A GIANT funeral pyre lit up the night sky as the incineration started of hundreds of animal carcasses in a bid to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

The bonfire, at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, is on the farm believed to be the source of Britains biggest foot-and-mouth outbreak for 30 years.

A ditch 120-feet long was dug and covered with more than 250 railway sleepers. Two lorry-loads of straw and 75 tonnes of coal are being used as fuel.

It is expected that the fire, lit on the evening of Sunday (25 February), will take 24 hours to consume about 800 pig carcasses and 30 cattle carcasses.

The ashes will then be buried on the farm.

Livestock are due also to be slaughtered and burned at six other farms where the disease has been confirmed as well as at two farms at risk of contact.

Local farmers have praised MAFF officials who are preparing for the incineration of livestock at a nearby farm belonging to Ian Williamson.

Ministry vets have shown great sympathy towards Mr Williamson who faces the loss of 140 pedigree Limousin cattle and hundreds of sheep, said producers.

However, some farmers were concerned about the length of time it was taken to kill and burn the stock at the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm.

Older producers who remember the last big outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the 1960s voiced fears that disposal was taking too long.

Some were worried about vermin risk and the carcasses lying overnight.

The disposal procedure was outlined by Richard Drummond, the Ministry of Agricultures head of veterinary services for the northern region.

Mr Drummond stressed the logistical difficulties of constructing such a large funeral pyre to dispose of so many pig and cattle carcasses.

“We are actively visiting farm premises in the area as a precautionary measure to inspect livestock to ensure there are no undisclosed pockets of infection.”

Mr Drummond added: “We are grateful of all the co-operation we are receiving in order to do this, and we hope that this will continue.”

All neighbouring farms and other holdings which have had contact with the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm have been placed under a 21-day restriction order.

They will be visited over the next forty-eight hours by MAFF inspectors.

The public have also received high praise for staying away from two farms along different parts of Hadrians Wall which is popular with tourists.

John Spence, a farmer from Whitchester said he was grateful for the publics understanding and hoped it would continue through the difficult days ahead.

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