22 June 2001
Plea to resume OTMS scheme
By James Garner
CALLS for a swift resumption of the over-30-months scheme are growing as the backlog of animals awaiting slaughter builds to crisis levels.
Before the foot-and-mouth crisis about 13-14,000 animals were slaughtered under the scheme each week.
That figure has dropped to about 4000 animals and most of these are in Northern Ireland.
Best estimates suggest that anywhere between 170,000 to 200,000 cattle are stacking up on British farms.
But the government priority remains to eradicating the virus and rendering plants are the primary method of carcass disposal.
There is a lack of other disposal methods for F&M material preventing OTMS starting, says Tom Hind, National Farmers Union meat hygiene advisor.
He fears it will take immense political will to divert carcasses from rendering plants to commercial landfill and funeral pyres.
Both these methods of disposal have little public support due to concerns about contamination and pollution.
Even if OTMS was to resume at full slaughter capacity immediately it would take up to three months to clear the backlog.
Further delay could cause serious welfare problems on farm as autumn calving approaches.
The situation is no better north of the border. National Farmers Union Scotland president Jim Walker says the government must act now.
We have a backlog already of more than 30,000 cattle in Scotland. It will take at least two months to clear that.
Unless we can clear it by early winter then we are heading for serious trouble.
And there are concerns in Scotland that rendering capacity could be limited by a slaughter scheme to remove unwanted sheep later in the season.
This would put huge pressure on rendering capacity, says Mr Walker.
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