BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Tom Heap
"The daily toll is slowly falling"
 real 56k

Agriculture minister Nick Brown
"Vaccination is not a way of defeating the disease"
 real 28k

Anthony Gibson, NFU South West
on how the problem of meeting the slaughter targets is getting more difficult in Devon
 real 28k

Friday, 13 April, 2001, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Disease 'could hit a third of farms'
Pyre at Great Orton, Cumbria
Thousands of cattle have been burnt in Cumbria
Leading scientists have warned that a third of all British farms could fall victim to foot-and-mouth unless the policy of slaughtering healthy animals is intensified.

Their research said that even when infected animals were slaughtered within 24 hours of symptoms appearing, some 30% of farms would eventually be hit by the epidemic unless "firebreak" culls were stepped up.

Crisis in the UK
Cases on Friday: 1
Total confirmed cases: 1,261
541,000 animals awaiting slaughter
400,000 carcasses awaiting disposal
The figure rose to 79% in the heavily affected areas of Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.

The figures come as the tourist industry tries to attract millions of Easter holidaymakers to the countryside, in what is being seen as a make-or-break weekend for many rural businesses and attractions.

Experts from London's Imperial College School of Medicine used official figures to produce a mathematical model of disease transmission.

Process hindered

Writing in the journal Science, they said healthy cattle on farms neighbouring an infection site needed to be slaughtered within 48 hours for their prediction not to be realised.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has admitted this process is being hindered because of logistical difficulties.

On Wednesday, the government's chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, said the epidemic was "flattening out".

Extensive culling is sadly the only option for controlling the current British epidemic

Imperial College researchers
But the Imperial College researchers, Neil Ferguson, Christl Donnelly and Roy Anderson, said the intensive culling programme should be maintained even during the retreat of the epidemic.

"Extensive culling is sadly the only option for controlling the current British epidemic.

"And it is essential that the control measures now in place are maintained during the long decay phase of the epidemic (several months) to ensure eradication," they reported.

'Nothing wrong'

But a spokesperson for the Soil Association said the mass slaughter policy was not the right solution.

Patrick Holden said: "Over two million animals are condemned to death, 95% of them with nothing wrong with them.

"It has brought the economy to its knees and now a couple of scientists come along and say, on the basis of a model example, that we should have done it faster and more effectively and we may need to extend the culling zone.

"All this when a perfectly viable alternative, namely vaccination, which has been tried and tested in other countries, exists."

Boat trips resume on Ullswater in the Lake District
Tourist attractions are reopening
Currently, ring culls of 3km are in place in the worst affected areas of Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.

Outside these areas, officials aim to cull animals on farms that border infected cases within 48 hours of the case being confirmed.

But Maff has admitted there are problems in meeting the targets.

Meanwhile the government is waiting to see if its attempt to coax visitors back to the countryside will succeed.

Ministers' efforts

It is a crucial weekend for the tourist industry, with many businesses relying on income from the Easter break to save them from bankruptcy.

Ministers have been touring the countryside with the message that rural Britain is "open for business".

On Friday Culture Secretary Chris Smith is touring attractions in Kent, and Education Secretary David Blunkett is expected at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

But airports and travel agents say 1.75m Britons are heading abroad for the weekend.

Latest figures show there is now a steady decrease in the average number of new cases being recorded each day, a Maff spokesman said.

But officials are still appealing for more burial sites for the disposal of carcasses.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

13 Apr 01 | UK
Britons head for the sun
12 Apr 01 | UK
Crunch weekend for tourism
12 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
NI foot-and-mouth tests negative
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories