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Jim Scudamore, chief veterinary officer
"We want to get carcasses off farms as quickly as possible"
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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 11:42 GMT
Vaccination call to combat disease
Chief vet Jim Scudamore
Chief vet Jim Scudamore to meet Cumbrian farmers
The plan to slaughter up to 500,000 healthy animals in an attempt to curb the spread of foot-and-mouth is coming under heavy fire.

An extended cull of healthy but high-risk animals was announced by Agriculture Minister Nick Brown on Thursday

But farmers in some areas say the Ministry of Agriculture (Maff) cannot even keep up with the cull of diseased animals and are threatening a "rural revolt" against mass slaughter.

Now, an organic farming pressure group which had previously backed the slaughter programme, said it was failing.

We have not rejected vaccination entirely. We must look at all the weapons in the armoury

Jim Scudamore
Chief veterinary officer
The Soil Association is instead calling for a vaccination programme.

But the government is insisting a widespread cull is needed because of the difficulty in detecting foot-and-mouth in some stock, particularly sheep.

Vets fear thousands are harbouring the disease, apparently without symptoms.

But farmers say that first, the government must deal with the carcasses which are being left to rot in fields for days before they are removed.

Chief vet Jim Scudamore said action was being taken to do just that.


He said the aim was to kill animals within 24 hours of diagnosis.

"Once animals are dead they won't spread the disease," he said on Radio 4's Today programme on Monday.

But he admitted there were bottlenecks at each stage of the cull because of the "overwhelming volume" of animals involved.

The four steps are:

  • diagnosis: now faster because it was based on clinical symptoms rather than lab tests
  • valuation of animals
  • slaughter
  • disposal: was being speeded up by introducing a third rendering plant

Mr Scudamore said the "ideal" was to bury animals on farms but this could only happen if there was no risk to ground water.

Slaughter 'not working'

Also speaking on Today, the Soil Association director Patrick Holden said it was "clear" the slaughter plan was not working.

He rejected criticisms that vaccination would mark a permanent end to Britain's disease-free status.

It was used in Albania and Macedonia against an outbreak in 1996 and eventually led to disease-free status, he said.

'Absolute disaster'

"Vaccine stocks exist and it would massively reduce the dreadful circumstances farmers, particularly in Cumbria."

He said vaccination would be cheaper than mass slaughter.

But David Maclean, Tory MP for Penrith and the Borders, said vaccination would be "an absolute disaster".

Critics of vaccination say there are three problems:

  • it is very expensive
  • it does not last very long, boosters are needed within a year
  • vaccinated animals can still carry the disease endangering the country's disease-free status

Mr Scudamore said the government had not ruled out vaccination but warned it would have "serious implications" for the nation's disease-free status.

"We have not rejected vaccination entirely. We must look at all the weapons in the armoury."

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See also:

10 Mar 01 | UK
Farmers urge faster culls
18 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farms complete first cull
18 Mar 01 | UK
Farm disease cases top 300
18 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farms complete first cull
18 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Elections still planned for May
17 Mar 01 | UK
Tourism aid 'must wait'
17 Mar 01 | Europe
On the brink of ruin?
19 Mar 01 | Scotland
Unrest over foot-and-mouth cull
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