20 March 2001
Vaccination may be used as last resort
by Philip Clarke, Europe correspondent
EUROPEAN farm ministers meeting in Brussels have agreed that vaccinating livestock to control foot-and-mouth disease should only be undertaken as a last resort.
A paper circulated by the European Commission explained that there would be significant cost and logistical implications of injecting 300 million animals twice a year.
“Vaccinated animals are not necessarily disease free,” it added. “The antigens build up and can hide the actual presence of foot-and-mouth disease.”
The loss of non-vaccination status would also involved substantial losses in trade to countries outside the European Union, ministers were told in Brussels.
But a spokeswoman for the Council of Agriculture ministers said: “A substantial majority of member states were against vaccination.”
Generally, ministers were increasingly optimistic that foot-and-mouth disease would not spread to the Continent from the UK.
One case in France last week has not been repeated in other countries. As each day passes, the risk diminishes, said German farm minister Renate Kunast.
Irish Farmers Association president Tom Parlon was more circumspect.
Mr Parlon was confident that all British animals imported to Ireland had been slaughtered out, but the disease was still uncomfortably close, he said.
He added: “It is still appearing in south-west Scotland and Anglesey and is a time-bomb waiting to go off.”