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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Beckett doubts success of vaccination
Margaret Beckett in Yorkshire
Margaret Beckett (left) encounters foot-and-mouth
Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett said she had not ruled out vaccination to combat foot-and-mouth disease but she remained sceptical of its likely success.

The minister was responding to claims made by a leading organic farmer that there was a real possibility the government would reconsider introducing vaccination.

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said it could be used as a protective measure to bring the disease under control.

The arguments over vaccination came as vets began testing hundreds of sheep grazing in the Brecon Beacons for foot-and-mouth following a new outbreak in the area.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,785 - two new cases on Monday
3,412,000 animals slaughtered
20,000 animals awaiting slaughter
11,000 carcasses awaiting disposal
Thousands of sheep graze on common land in the area near Modrydd Farm, Libanus, Brecon, where cattle were confirmed with the disease on Saturday.

More than 4,000 animals at the farm have been culled and six adjoining farms also had their stock slaughtered.

'No change in our position'

It brought the total number of foot-and-mouth cases in Wales to 93.

Mrs Beckett said the government's position had not changed: vaccination was still an option, but the evidence suggested it would not be a solution.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Holden said a vaccination programme was necessary because culling had not worked.

He said: "There is a real possibility the government will reconsider introducing vaccination.

"We have had 1,700 cases, lost three and a half million animals and thousands more farms have been caught up in the contiguous cull and it hasn't worked.

"If we were to deploy vaccination, we strongly believe that if we used it as a protective measure and to suppress the spread of the disease - both on a voluntary basis - this could help bring the disease under control."

No solution

But Mrs Beckett remains unconvinced and said the current culling programme had proved effective in bringing the disease under control.

She told the BBC: "It is a simple fact that there are problems with vaccination, that it is not an easy answer.

"There isn't any easy answer.

Minister of Environment Food and the Regions Margaret Beckett
Margaret Beckett: no change in policy
"Before, during and after the election, we have continued to look at the issue of vaccination and if we feel the balance of argument has shifted ... we will take that into account.

"The balance of the argument, I'm afraid, has not shifted."

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has always opposed the widespread use of vaccination.

NFU chairman Ben Gill told Today: "Unless there is new science that has developed in the last few days that I have not been made aware of, I would expect the Government would come to the same conclusion as they did before.

"I wish there were a solution as simplistic as some people claim vaccination would be."

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