Mass cull if virus returns

Source: FWi 12 March 2002 By Johann Tasker

4 THE countryside will be kept open and livestock slaughtered rather than vaccinated if there is another foot-and-mouth outbreak.

A 62-page strategy to fight the disease in the event of another outbreak was published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Tuesday (11 March).

The document is an interim plan to deal with a foot-and-mouth outbreak if it occurs before the results of the government's inquiries into last year's epidemic are published.

"The countryside would be kept 'open'," the report says. "The blanket approach to footpath closures would not be repeated."

It adds: "Footpath closures would only be authorised in particular circumstances where they would be based on veterinary risk assessments."

All livestock movements would be halted once the first case was confirmed  unlike last year's epidemic, where animal movements were initially allowed to continue.

But the policy of slaughtering infected livestock and culling out contiguous premises would remain a key weapon in the fight against the disease.

"Vaccination should be considered as a separate strategy, but would not be an alternative to slaughter in the first instance," the report says.

However, carcasses would be incinerated rather than buried in mass pits or burned on open pyres as thousands were during last year's epidemic.

"It is unlikely that pyre burning or mass burial would be utilised for environmental and public health reasons," the document says.

However, improving the flow of information from ministers and government officials to farmers and the public has not been resolved.

A section of the report titled "Communication" says merely "To be added".

Some policies and procedures set out in the document will be different in Scotland and Wales, which have devolved administrations separate to Westminster.

The Scottish Executive is expected to issue a supplementary contingency plan outlining the arrangements north of the border.