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Programme highlights Friday, 13 April, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
FMD targets not met
Carcasses burn in Staffordshire
The cull is not working

The foot and mouth epidemic, knocked off the front pages and news bulletins -- no doubt to the Government's relief - by Sophie Wessex and the US spy-plane saga -- now seems to be roaring back again.

Ministry of Agriculture officials said this morning that there were 24 new cases of foot and mouth in the 24 hours up to 7pm last night and there have been another nine new cases so far today.

They also revealed another big jump in the number of animals waiting for slaughter and disposal.

MAFF said that 541,000 animals were awaiting slaughter and 408,000 remain to be disposed of... and admitted they were not yet 'on to of the job' when it came to meeting the target of slaughtering animals in farms neighbouring outbreaks.

Indeed, the World At One has found disturbing evidence that in the worst-affected areas, especially Devon, the spread of the disease is apparently far beyond the ability of the Government's best efforts to meet its own targets - always assuming the Government is carrying out its own policies effectively, which some vets and farmers doubt.

Conservative Defence Spokesman Iain Duncan-Smith
Worried about lack of information

The targets are that all infected animals should be killed within 24 hours of diagnosis, and all healthy animals on neighbouring farms within 48 hours - the so-called ring-cull.

Yet the sheer weight of numbers of animals involved makes that almost impossible to achieve.

Academic concerns

A team of scientists at Imperial College, in London, has researched the spread of the disease and it found that culling targets were not being met everywhere.

Doctor Neil Ferguson was one of the scientists on the team. He said today that althought the policy of slaughter was correct, it was not being met in all areas of the country.

Tagets unmet

The Junior Agriculture Minister Joyce Quinn was in the north-east today, at the disease control centre in Newcastle.

In a news conference, Ms Quin defended the Government's handling of the crisis, but admitted that they had still not yet fully managed to meet the 48 hour slaughter target.

However, she stressed that with assistance from farmers and vets, they were getting increasingly close

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Behind schedule

However, just minutes earlier that picture of supposed unity between vets and ministers in the fight against foot and mouth was somewhat undermined when Ms Quin was assailed by a group of local vets, who are currently working for MAFF.

They were angry at what they said was Government delay in making decisions to beat the outbreak.

Problems in the South West

But on the ground in the worst-affected areas, the situation seems as desperate as ever.

But on the ground in the worst-affected areas, the situation seems as desperate as ever.


The situation here has really not improved at all this week we're still getting outbreaks in part of Devon where we would not expect to have outbreaks

Anthony Gibson

Anthony Gibson, the regional director of the National Farmers Union in the South West, which covers hard-hit Devon, told me the problem of meeting the slaughter targets was getting more difficult by the day:

Although the ministry are by and large managing to achieve the deadline of no more than 24 hours between report of disease and slaughter of infected animals, they're nowhere near the deadline of 48 hours to slaughter animals on neighbouring farms

Where are the figures?

Despite the release of more details today, the statistics for the numbers of animals identified for and waiting for slaughter have been hard to come by in recent days.

MAFF has said the delays in producing figures had been caused by problems collecting and collating data.

But the Conservatives have accused the Government of deliberately suppressing the figures because they showed the situation was worsening.

The Tories' Defence spokesman, Iain Duncan-Smith, is on William Hague's Foot and Mouth task force. He told us that figures on culling and disposal of carcasses should be available to the public.

Government response

The Minister of Agriculture, Nick Brown admitted on The World at One that the Ministry was struggling to meet its targets because of the sheer volume of the work.

He also told us that the statistical information which had been removed from the Ministry of Agriculture website was now back online.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Anthony Gibson, regional director NFU South West
"We can't go on indefinitely with a policy that is not going to succeed"
Iain Duncan-Smith, Conservative Defence Spokesman
Figures on slaughter need to be released
Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister
"The statistical information which was being sought is back on our website now"
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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