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Professor David King
"There is no intention here of using a vaccination ring"
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Alan Mackay reports
"Government vets are to conduct a pre-emptive cull"
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Monday, 16 April, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Highland disease fears rise
Cattle close up
There are 70 cattle and 300 sheep on the croft
Moves are under way to prepare for a cull of livestock on a group of smallholdings in the Highlands.

Preliminary tests have shown no signs of foot-and-mouth at a farm near Tongue in Sutherland, but a pre-emptive cull is to take place after the crofter was found to have made visits to an infected part of Cumbria.

If confirmed, the discovery would be a crushing blow to farmers and tourism operators in the north of Scotland.

All 155 confirmed cases of the disease have so far been confined to the south of the country - 150 in Dumfries and Galloway and five in the Borders.

More than 100 crofters in Sutherland could ultimately be affected by a notice restricting the movement of sheep.

Jim Walker
Jim Walker: "Stupid"
Chris Shepherd, the crofter under suspicion at Braetongue, has 300 sheep and 70 cattle.

He is thought to have visited relatives in the infected area of Cumbria three times during the past four weeks - actions described as "stupid" by National Farmers Union Scotland president Jim Walker.

Mr Walker said: "Despite all the warnings that we've put out and despite all the advice, we get someone who has been down in Cumbria three times visiting people.

"It just beggars belief. How anybody could be so stupid after all the publicity that's been given to it is beyond me.

"We've told them to stay away from infected areas and of all the places he could have gone, he chooses Cumbria."

Vaccination programme

Meanwhile, the UK Government appears to be edging closer to a giving the go-ahead for a limited vaccination programme in its fight against the disease.

Ministers and officials are to discuss a report by the government's chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, which recommends vaccinating cattle in the areas of England worst affected by the disease.

Professor David King: "Let me make it clear that the cull policy that we have successfully been pursuing in terms of bringing this epidemic under control will be continued unabated.

Professor David King, government scientific adviser
Professor King: "Cull continues"
"What we're proposing is that vaccination could be used as a means of protecting cattle that are currently in sheds.

"Vaccinate them before they are let out to pasture and they would then be protected from getting this disease.

"There is no intention here of using a vaccination ring."

Scottish farmers are vehemently opposed to the move saying that it would have devastating consequences for the industry.

Mr Walker said: "If someone in government is prepared to take a soft, backward step by doing vaccination in Cumbria then the surveillance zone must start at the border and work back 10km into Cumbria.

"There must be no chance of this disease jumping through the vaccination ring and landing in Scotland.

Exports threat

"Three or four weeks ago when I was talking about the Scotland and England border being put up again it seemed as if it was complete pie in the sky and now it seems more and more likely."

He added: "If a lunatic decision is taken in Whitehall to do such a thing, then it may well come to fruition."

Scottish industry leaders have also warned huge export markets in the US could be lost for products as diverse as cheese and chocolate, with the consequences lasting for years after the disease has been stamped out.

Vaccination leaves foot-and-mouth antibodies in the animal's bloodstream, threatening exports worth a total of 1.3bn-a-year.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Scotland
Easter break springs tourism hope
15 Apr 01 | UK
Scientist backs vaccination
13 Apr 01 | UK
Vaccination back on agenda
28 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scotland divided over vaccination
29 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farmers warn PM against vaccination
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