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November 08, 2004

Doubt over epidemic theory

By Valerie Elliott

QUESTIONS are being raised over the origin of the foot-and-mouth virus which cost the British economy at least 9 billion.

It has been officially accepted that the virus in 2001 was spread through the air from a pig unit at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, and reached Prestwick Hall Farm, Ponteland, two miles away before spreading nationwide through sheep auctions.

However, video evidence obtained by Farmers Weekly from Northumberland Trading Standards shows that the virus could have been taken on to the pig farm, which was ran by Bobby Waugh, in the carcasses of sheep which were taken to the farm for disposal a month before the disease was confirmed there. Mr Waugh, however, hid the sheep because later that day the local government vet was to check that he was following the rules for production of pig swill.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said last night that if there were any evidence to support the allegations it would start a new investigation.