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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Farmers welcome vaccine 'option'
A vet inspects a lamb for foot-and-mouth disease
The NFU described 2001's outbreak as a "wake-up call"
The National Farmers' Union has backed plans to use an emergency vaccination programme as an option to control any future foot-and-mouth outbreak.

A Royal Society report released on Tuesday said animals on an infected farm should still be culled but it also suggested healthy livestock on neighbouring premises should be vaccinated as a "major tool of first resort" to prevent the disease spreading further.

The NFU welcomed news that general disease control contingency plans would be amended and reviewed regularly in future at the highest governmental level.

Sheep farmer Kevin Littleboy
Kevin Littleboy - has misgivings

Union president Ben Gill said: "The NFU supports the report's recommendation that emergency vaccination should be considered as an option alongside the slaughter of infected animals and dangerous contacts as part of an overall control strategy during any future foot-and-mouth disease outbreak."

The NFU also backed a series of recommendations by the scientific inquiry, many of which it has campaigned for, including:

  • Further action to remedy "inadequate" UK controls on illegal meat imports

  • Reinforcement of the State Veterinary Service

  • Work to strengthen EU disease surveillance and early warning systems

  • Greater use of IT and mathematical modelling for scenario planning and disease control

  • The development of EU risk-based post-outbreak protocols for the resumption of normal trade, whether or not vaccination is used

  • Research to establish any possible link between livestock management practices and stress and the spread of disease.

Mr Gill added: "The report described last year's devastating outbreak as a wake-up call - a phrase we have often used ourselves.

"The threat of importing disease is increasing. It is vital, therefore, that the resources needed to protect our animal populations and native crops and plants keep pace with that."

Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Malcolm Bruce also welcomed the report but he warned that "getting a grip" on disease control and the importing of illegal meat products must also be a priority.

Sheep farmer Kevin Littleboy, however, had misgivings.

He told the BBC: "If a vaccination is not 100% safe, you vaccinate all your animals, inadvertedly give them foot-and-mouth and it spreads.

"How are you going to tell the difference between an animal that has had the vaccine and an animal that actually has the disease?"



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16 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
16 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
16 Jul 02 | UK
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