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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 18:27 GMT
Theme park defends pet slaughter
Alton Towers logo
Eighteen animals at the theme park were culled
Alton Towers theme park has defended its decision to slaughter 18 pet animals as a foot-and-mouth precaution after coming under fire from animal welfare groups.

One cow, six sheep, three pigs and eight goats were destroyed at the Staffordshire theme park on Tuesday after it was designated as being in an infected area.

We felt it was rather a drastic step to take

But a spokesperson for the RSPCA condemned the move saying alternative solutions could have been explored.

RSPCA spokeswoman Emma Nutbrown said: "We felt it was rather a drastic step to take.

"Alton Towers is a huge park and we would have hoped there would have been some other way of dealing with the situation other than this irreversible move.

"We understand that the animals were destroyed humanely but we would still say it was very regrettable."

But Alton Towers spokeswoman Liz Greenwood told BBC News Online the decision was "in the best interests" of the theme park and the local community.

She said the 500-acre park posed a huge risk to the local area because of the susceptible animals in the park, the number of staff and the number of guests that would be coming to the park when it opened on 31 March.

Ms Greenwood said: "The main thing to point out is we did look at all the alternatives, including applying for licenses to move the animals, vaccination, and segregation.

"But when it became clear that none of these would be possible the decision was unfortunately made to destroy the animals."

Maff confirmed that, following a risk assessment at Alton Towers, various options had been suggested, one of which was to cull the animals.

But the ministry said no movement restriction had been placed on the park and the animals could have been quarantined out of public reach.

"In the end it was a commercial decision on the part of Alton Towers," said a spokesperson.

Ms Greenwood denied the decision had been made for economic reasons and stressed that the opening of the park at the end of March was still not certain.

Fears for llamas

Meanwhile hundreds of British llama owners, many of whom depend on the animals for their main source of income, are living in fear of foot-and-mouth.

According to Mrs Mary Pryse, a member of the Council of British Llama and Alpaca Association (CBLAA), llamas would be on the compulsory slaughter list if they came into contact with the disease.

But Mrs Pryse, who runs a llama-trekking business in Northamptonshire, said there were no compensation measures in place.

She said: "It's terrifying. At the moment my whole business is at a standstill and we don't know what is going to happen next.

"If I was told my animals had to be slaughtered it would be awful. They are like pets."

Mrs Pryse said the CBLAA had written to Agriculture Nick Brown to ask for an isolation policy for llamas rather than compulsory slaughter.

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