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The BBC's Sue Nelson
"The latest figures continue to show the number of new daily cases declining"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"One in three animals slaughtered as confirmed cases may not have had the disease"
 real 56k

Friday, 11 May, 2001, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Growing anger over farm disease claims
Sheep
Animals might have been culled unnecessarily
There is growing anger among farmers after the Ministry of Agriculture admitted hundreds of farms where animals were culled for foot-and-mouth may not have had the disease at all.

An internationally renowned laboratory where the animals were tested for foot-and-mouth said 30% of the herds confirmed as infected showed no sign of the disease.

The admission has raised the possibility that herds at hundreds of farms were wrongly diagnosed, leading to the unnecessary slaughter of thousands of animals.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,583 - 4 on Friday
2,547,000 animals slaughtered
94,000 animals awaiting slaughter
49,000 carcasses awaiting disposal

Devon farmer Lawrence Wright told BBC News Online the results would be "extremely upsetting" for farmers whose livestock had been culled.

The figures, revealed to Channel Four News by senior vets, showed that about 450 of the 1,579 farms so far confirmed with the disease did not prove positive when blood tests were carried out at the laboratory in Pirbright, Surrey.

They also confirmed that of the 250 cases where animals were slaughtered on suspicion of having the disease, only 46 cases were later confirmed positive by laboratory tests.

A Maff spokesman said negative results did not necessarily mean foot-and-mouth was not present on the farms.

'Extremely upsetting'

It could have been that the animals were not in the stage of the disease where the virus would show up in tests, he said.

Mr Wright, who farms 17 hectares near Ilfracombe, said: "It is an appalling illustration of how crude and indiscriminate the slaughter policy has been.

"Hundreds of thousands of animals might have been culled unnecessarily."


It is an appalling illustration of how crude and indiscriminate the slaughter policy has been

Lawrence Wright
Farmer
He said his 130-strong flock, which he milks to make organic cheese, had not been affected by the cull.

But he and other farmers were angry they had been denied the right to protect their livestock by vaccination.

"All my immediate neighbours strongly believe they should have been able to vaccinate their animals instead of leaving them as sitting targets for the disease," he said.

In a statement Maff said: "We have acted on the best scientific advice throughout.

"Speed of slaughter is crucial to successful control and eradication of the disease.

Speed

"Waiting for test results to come through before taking action would risk not bringing the outbreak under control.

"The aim of the policy is to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease - we have no wish to slaughter more animals than strictly necessary to control the disease."

If the farms were misdiagnosed, the mistakes will have cost the taxpayer millions of pounds in compensation.

Cow
Some farmers have tried to stop the cull of their livestock
A spokeswoman for the National Farmers Union said: "It was vital throughout that animals that were diagnosed were slaughtered within 24 hours.

"Obviously, complicated diagnoses had to be made and difficult decisions had to be made.

"If you had waited for test results you risk much more farms potentially coming down with foot-and-mouth if that first case had proved positive."

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