Tough measures as foot

23 February 2001

Tough measures as foot

and mouth returns to UK

By Johann Tasker

and Alistair Driver

EMERGENCY measures announced in an attempt to control foot-and-mouth disease will only be lifted under strict conditions, the government has warned.

A total ban on the export of all livestock, meat and milk was announced by farm minister Nick Brown on Wednesday (Feb 21), following the confirmation of Britains first outbreak of the disease in 20 years. He said: "There is a significant risk to cattle, sheep, pigs and venison. It is a very virulent condition."

Mr Brown said extra resources would be deployed to track down the source of the outbreak. MAFF officers would work around the clock to track down the source of the disease and eradicate it wherever found. Farmers who had to slaughter affected livestock would be compensated at the full market value, he pledged.

He added: "We have got to get hold of this at once by bearing down on the source, checking every single movement in and out of areas where the disease is identified and slaughtering infected animals and disposing of their carcasses."

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore warned that the export ban would only be lifted on a region-by-region basis following tests showing that all farms were free from the disease: "This means we are going to have to rely on farmers to look at their stock daily and report symptoms to their animal health office."

First confirmed

The disease was first confirmed in a batch of pigs which arrived at the Cheale Meats abattoir, near Brentwood, Essex, last Friday (16 February). The animals had arrived from Buckinghamshire, Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight. A restriction zone was immediately imposed around the farms in question. Restrictions were later placed around a fourth farm in Gloucestershire while experts tested suspect livestock.

Tests on livestock and vehicles on all other farms which have supplied Cheale Meats in the last three or four weeks are now well under way. MAFF experts believe that vehicles visiting the plant may have picked up the disease and spread it to other farms.

Abattoir manager Paul Cheale said he believed it could take weeks for MAFF officials to test the farms which had sent thousands of animals to his slaughterhouse. He told FARMERS WEEKLY: "They are checking on all the farms that have supplied us in the last fortnight – and that could be thousands."

The news devastated farmers, not least pig producers who were only just starting to recover from last years swine fever in East Anglia. That disease affected 15 farms and resulted in the slaughter of 250,000 pigs. Once again, finished pig prices are likely to fall as the sow market suffers another body blow.

Animal welfare problems are also likely as farmers are forced to keep livestock on back farm because they are unable to find a market. Sheep and beef abattoirs stopped killing as it became clear that the export ban was unlikely to be lifted before a meeting of the European Standing Veterinary Committee in Brussels on Mar. 6-7.

The strain of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed in Essex is particu-

larly virulent and can rip through a herd after an incubation period of just two to three days.

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