7 April 2001
Leicestershire plea on foot-and-mouth
By Alistair Driver
LEICESTERSHIRE farmers are pleading for foot-and-mouth restrictions to be relaxed in areas they say no longer pose any real risk of harbouring infection.
A restriction zone has been in place around a sheep farm at Stonesby, near Melton Mowbray, since infection was confirmed there on 28 February.
The zone boundary, which follows roads and natural boundaries, stretches 24km (15 miles) from the infected farm at some points.
Members of the local National Farmers Union wants restrictions in areas furthest away from Stonesby to be lifted before the whole area is cleared.
Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) vets are expected to finish surveillance work, including blood tests, which would pave the way for restrictions to be lifted
However, hopes that an end to restrictions could be imminent were dashed when farmers was told it could take a month for these results to come through.
National Farmers Union officials told MAFF that farmers whose animals are now suffering monumental welfare problems should not have to wait so long.
“Stonesby was an isolated outbreak that has been fully traced to a source outside the county,” said NFU East Midlands director Jack Ward.
“Moving the restriction back just a few miles will make such a big difference and will allow thousands of animals to be moved.
“As it stands the last hope for many farmers is that their perfectly healthy animals go into MAFFs welfare disposal scheme.”
But the welfare slaughter scheme has so far provided very little relief as it has been unable to keep up with demand.
“I have spoken to farmers on the phone who have been in tears because of the welfare situation.”.
Mr Ward said MAFF officials appeared sympathetic to the request for a partial lifting of restrictions early on Friday (6 April).
But he went on to accuse the ministry of indecision and a lack of resources when it came to deciding how to go about lifting the restrictions.