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Steve Rossides, Food Health and Science, NFU
was asked how long it would be before Britain would be foot-and-mouth free
 real 28k

Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Vets fear for their future
Temporary veterinary inspector Matt Coulston
Matt Coulston: Vets could be struggling this winter
Vets tackling the foot-and-mouth virus fear they could lose their jobs as a result of the crisis.

Many vets believe redundancies are inevitable after the mass slaughter programme which has destroyed more than three million farm animals.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is concerned that having fewer vets will affect the monitoring of animal welfare, and has called for an agricultural inspection system.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,728
Two on Monday
3,270,000 animals slaughtered
50,000 animals awaiting slaughter
11,000 awaiting disposal
When the outbreak began, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (Maff) drafted in 1,500 extra vets to work as temporary veterinary inspectors.

But some vets have told the BBC's Countryfile programme that the future looks bleak for their profession.

Temporary veterinary inspector Matt Coulston, of Frame Swift and Partners, said: "Colleagues of mine in other practices have lost 90% of their farm animals, and unless there is some significant restocking in the near future they are going to be struggling through the winter."

Even before the outbreak, farmers were calling vets out less often because they could not afford to pay them.

In 1980 there were 597 government vets - but now there are fewer than half that figure.

President of the British Veterinary Association David Tyson said: "We could be looking at a shortfall of 80 to 100 veterinary posts... in those farm animal practices."

Colleagues of mine in other practices have lost 90% of their farm animals

Temporary veterinary inspector Matt Coulston
Fewer vets could affect the monitoring of animal health and welfare, according to the RSPCA.

Dr Martin Potter, of the RSPCA, told Countryfile it could result in animals suffering inadvertently, which was unnecessary.

"I have been speaking to a number of vets directly involved in the foot-and-mouth cull and they have been shocked at the level of sheep scab, for example, prevalent in the national flock," he said.

"Scab, when it was a notifiable disease, had been virtually eradicated - but apparently it is now widespread and that has only really been noted because the vets are getting out onto the farms again."

MOT-test equivalent

The charity is calling for an agricultural inspection system.

Dr Potter said: "We would like to see a very simple MOT-test equivalent for all farm premises which would be based on that farm demonstrating proper standards of animal health and welfare.

"If I were a dog breeder with three breeding bitches I would have to have a licence from my local authority.

"But I could be farming thousands of sheep and expect a visit from the state veterinary service once in 15 years and perhaps not even as much as that."

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