No change & 8m animals for cull

21 September 2001

No change & 8m animals for cull

NEARLY 8m animals will be slaughtered if foot-and-mouth continues until next spring and the government refuses to change its current control policy.

The warning was delivered by Peter Stevenson, political director, Compassion in World Farming, at a conference in London last Friday. "When will government recognise that its policy is not working? We are begging ministers to find a new strategy and that should be vaccination," said Mr Stevenson.

Box detector

Key to that strategy is a suitcase-sized box, which can confirm the presence of the F&M virus within two hours that has been available to government since March. First developed in the US as a defence against bioterrorism, the Cepheid Smart Cycler, uses nasal or throat swabs to identify the disease.

"Up to 2.5m possibly healthy animals could have been spared if the test had been used to identify which animals carried foot-and-mouth and which did not when it was offered to the government on Mar 9," said Mr Stevenson.

Even at this late stage the test could help to stop the disease spreading this autumn. It should be used to identify new cases, which should then be culled, and all stock vaccinated within 10km, he added.

Prof Fred Brown, who has researched the virus for 46 years, agreed the test could have saved many healthy animals. "The great advantage of the Smart Cycler is that it can detect the presence of the disease 24-48hrs before the clinical symptoms appear," said Mr Brown. &#42

"Ashamed, frustrated and horrified," is how Ken Tyrell, former senior vet during the 1967/68 outbreak, described his reaction to what he called basic errors in MAFFs early handling of the crisis. Chief among the governments mistakes was: "Refusing to consider vaccination when it became obvious from day seven that to not vaccinate, and give way to the NFUs dogged opposition to vaccination, would contribute to the destruction of the rural economy."

Celebrity actor and CIWF patron Joanna Lumley questioned why F&M is the only disease, either animal or human, against which the government does not recommend vaccination. "It is face-saving on a scale we have not seen before. It looks like another Dome scenario," said Ms Lumley.

MAFF and DEFRA scientists allegedly told CIWF that the Smart Cycler was refused because its tests had not been validated and it could spread F&M.

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