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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Size of animal cull 'unnecessary'
Burning of carcasses during the foot-and-mouth crisis
More than four million animals were slaughtered during the outbreak
The culling of thousands of animals during the foot and mouth outbreak was unnecessary, according to a former government vet.

Dr Nick Honbold, who was a Defra vet during the outbreak in 2001, says it would have been better to limit the scale of the cull.

He says the study of field data found no evidence the contiguous cull helped to hasten the end of the outbreak.

Dr Honbold says the data was taken from Defra's databases and records.

Our research suggests that the necessity for an extensive and intensive contiguous cull was not as it seemed to be at the time of the outbreak
Dr Nick Hobold, Veterinary epidemiologist
Dr Honbold's claims are made in an article published in the Veterinary Record.

The veterinary epidemiologist now works for the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development in Belfast.

As part of the cull, healthy animals on farms next to infected ones were killed, despite protests from farmers and vets.

Dr Honbold says the research concentrated on the three areas in England which had the largest numbers of clustered infected premises during the outbreak.

Foot-and-mouth notice
The study suggests non-contiguous culling was unnecessary
They were the South West (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset), Cumbria and the Settle/Clitheroe area.

Researchers compared the outbreaks with control policies such as the speed of slaughter on infected premises and the intensity of contiguous culling.

"We found a very definite effect of speed of slaughter on infected premises," he said.

Virus reservoir

Many farmers and vets criticised the contiguous cull, claiming it was unnecessary and unjustified.

Now Dr Honbold's report appears to give weight to that view.

He said: "The outcome of our research suggests that the necessity for an extensive and intensive contiguous cull was not as it seemed to be at the time of the outbreak, when it was claimed to be essential for the control of the epidemic."

He believes the speed of culling animals on infected premises was the most important factor.

He says the disease could only spread from infected farms because there is no other reservoir in nature for the virus.

Official figures from Defra at the end of the foot and mouth outbreak show that more than four million animals were slaughtered, of which about one and a half million were non-contiguous.


SEE ALSO:
County 'unprepared for outbreak'
16 Sep 04  |  Cumbria
Politics and the countryside
26 Aug 04  |  Politics
Beckett accepts farm disease errors
22 Jul 02  |  Politics
Foot-and-mouth's painful lessons
16 Jul 02  |  Science/Nature


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