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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh in Brussels
"Most countries are wary of reintroducing vaccination"
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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 19:06 GMT
UK declares vaccination 'last resort'
Dead sheep in UK
Vaccination would be a "retreat", says UK
UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has told his colleagues from across Europe that vaccination remains a "last resort" as a way of tackling the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Some ministers at the Brussels meeting called for a vaccination programme, under pressure from farmers who have faced a devastating loss of export markets despite being free of the disease.

We may have to retreat to it, but it would be a substantial retreat

UK minister
Nick Brown

But Mr Brown argued that current measures, including restrictions on livestock movements and the culling of animals at risk, were the right policy and that vaccinations would be a last resort.

"People want to discuss whether we vaccinate whole herds or use vaccination as a containment policy. The advice to me is very clear - that we should not move to a vaccination policy," he said.

"I cannot rule it out. We may have to retreat to it, but it would be a substantial retreat.

Strict measures remain in force across Europe
In the UK, more than 330 cases have now been confirmed, but only one case has been found on mainland Europe, at a farm near Mayenne in north-western France.

French agriculture minister Jean Glavany told the meeting the outbreak at Mayenne had been contained and mastered.

He called for restrictions on French exports to be eased on 27 March unless further cases had been found.

Mr Brown and his fellow ministers had gathered to discuss the effectiveness of measures taken so far around Europe to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth.

Vaccination drawbacks
Hard to recognise vaccinated animal
Cost of vaccinating 300 million animals
Protection for six to nine months only
Some countries refuse to import vaccinated animals
European exports have been devastated by the disease, with dozens of non-EU countries banning meat and some other products.

Portugal, Holland and Belgium have led the calls for herds thought to be at risk to be vaccinated.

Dutch minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst believes that building huge funeral pyres for animals which could be vaccinated is unethical.

"There is more at stake than the closure of export markets that are closed anyway," he said.

More carcasses burning
In the UK, the slaughter and the burning continue
Germany has also been under pressure from its farmers to introduce at least a limited vaccination programme.

But most ministers, like Mr Brown, see it as a last resort, as it would limit export markets and could mean a period of years before Europe could rid itself of the disease.

The UK believes culling animals is a better option because it ensures the disease will eventually be eradicated rather than masked.

It's certainly possible that we'll have this problem fully under control in a few months

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler

In the Netherlands, a ban on all animal movement imposed after the French case was lifted at midnight on Sunday, allowing farmers to transport animals to slaughterhouses.

The authorities say two sets of tests on imported animals imported from France failed to find the disease.

By dawn on Monday, main roads were witnessing heavy traffic in animals bound for slaughterhouses, said Dutch television.

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See also:

14 Mar 01 | Americas
Argentina admits farm infection
13 Mar 01 | Europe
French foot-and-mouth measures
12 Mar 01 | Europe
UK labelled 'leper of Europe'
18 Mar 01 | UK
Farm disease 'to cost 9bn'
08 Mar 01 | Europe
Germany bans animal transport
07 Mar 01 | Europe
EU tightens animal controls
13 Mar 01 | Europe
Germany's new tastes
14 Mar 01 | UK
Call to hold off elections
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