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1967: Foot-and-mouth slaughter rate soars

VIDEO : Agriculture Minister Peart: "We're not sure of the sources"

The number of animals slaughtered in the latest epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease has reached a record high of 134,000.

More than 70 fresh outbreaks were confirmed today, bringing the total to 746 since the first case last month. The epidemic is now the worst this century.

There were 40 fresh cases in Cheshire, a key dairy-producing county at the centre of the epidemic.

A further 13 were diagnosed in neighbouring Shropshire, where the first outbreak was reported. Northamptonshire also confirmed its first case.

Preventive measures

The Ministry of Agriculture has issued farmers with four measures which it says will help contain the epidemic:

Fred Peart, the Minister for Agriculture, told MPs the epidemic is being contained, despite the gravity of the situation.

"If the present united effort is kept up we shall win through," he said.

The government is following a ruthless slaughter policy, in line with previous methods for dealing with the disease.

Under the policy, all the animals on a farm where an outbreak is confirmed are killed.

Some farmers have argued vaccination would be a more humane way of dealing with the disease. The government, however, believes it would cost too much and would not cover all types of farm animal.

Compensation

The government is committed to paying an estimated 8m in compensation to farmers after the first month alone.

But the National Farmers' Union points out that the actual losses to the farmer are far higher. Apart from the lost income, there is also the incalculable loss caused by the destruction of a lifetime's work.

Many of the animals slaughtered come from long-established pedigree herds, built up over generations.

Yesterday, 60 of the Duke of Westminster's 300-strong Eaton herd of pedigree Dairy Shorthorns on one of his farms near Chester were slaughtered after the disease was confirmed there.

The herd dates back to 1880, and included current show champions.

It's still not known what caused the current outbreak, although veterinary officers say investigations are proceeding.

One theory is that the virus was brought into the country in imported frozen beef.

Suggestions that the beef may have come from Argentina, a key source of Britain's frozen beef imports, are being strongly denied by the Argentine government.

In Context
November was the peak of the 1967 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, although it was June 1968 before the disease was brought fully under control again.

By that time, 400,000 animals had been destroyed, costing the government about 27 million in compensation.

The incidence of foot-and-mouth declined sharply after 1968, largely due to tightened import controls from countries with foot-and-mouth, and improved hygiene and animal health standards.

But in 2001, the disease struck again, and on a scale which dwarfed the 1967 outbreak.

Over 2,000 cases were reported, and an estimated four million animals were slaughtered across the UK.

The outbreak is estimated to have cost the country 8bn.

A report as a result of the 2001 outbreak has recommended vaccinating farm animals against the disease.


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