1. The current Foot and Mouth (FMD) outbreak differs from the 1967/68 UK outbreak in that the expected 'tail off' has not occurred. It has defied the Chief Scientists prediction that the disease would be "successfully dealt with" by early June. Instead we have experienced a levelling-off in which recorded outbreaks since the height of the disease from early May onwards have averaged between 2-4 cases per day. This steady state includes the original hot spots of Cumbria and in addition the new outbreaks in the Brecon Beacons, Settle, Thirsk and most recently Hexham.
The reason for the persistence of the disease, despite all efforts to contain it, is currently not known. It is possible that the disease is endemic in some hill flocks or in local wild life such as deer, hedgehogs or rodents. Alternatively clinical manifestation of the disease of this particular viral strain (Pan Asia serotype O) differs from its predecessors in that the asymptomatic form may occur in cattle as it does in sheep. If this were so then rapid identification, upon which the present policy depends, is hindered and outbreaks of FMD would occur inevitably in advance of detection.
The policy of eradication by slaughter has proved insufficient to control the disease and if it should persist the outbreaks of disease could rise with the onset of the cooler weather - with no end in sight.
The only way to curtail the spread of the disease is to ring vaccinate several miles outside each FMD epicentre and to cull or use additional suppressive vaccination within the circle. It is probably necessary in addition to use barrier vaccination to close off a region e.g. the North East and across the Scottish border. Such vaccinated populations should present an effective buffer to neutralise the virus and prevent further spread.
2. The extensive cull has put at increased risk many rare and endangered breeds and also domesticated breeds, not so officially classified, such as the hefted sheep that are an integral part of many local ecosystems. This amounts to an insupportable threat to the genetic diversity of our domesticated and feral species susceptible to FMD. It also presents a threat to the continued existence of low intensity farming methods and the rich wild life habitat they support. Such a change to our traditional countryside would be reflected adversely in the tourist industry.
Prophylactic vaccination is requested for rare and threatened pedigree stock still at risk from FMD and in order to maintain a viable nucleus from which to breed and repopulate.
3. FMD is endemic in the wild life in large areas of the world and it is unrealistic with increased international food trade and travel to suppose that we can support indefinitely, barrier-maintained susceptible populations of animals. Outbreaks such as the present one in the UK are increasingly likely, either unintentionally or from deliberate acts of "ecoterrorism". A disease-free policy also constitutes a trade embargo with other, especially developing parts of the world.
As a matter of urgency the EU should consider a return to its pre-1991 "Disease Free Status with Vaccination".
Declaration agreed at a meeting between Mr Edward McMillan - Scott MEP (Yorks & Humber and leader of Conservative MEPs) Tel 07785 263007; Dr Susan Haywood Ph D, BVSc, MRCVS, Senior Fellow in Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool Tel 01748 886538; Mr Paul Roger, BSc, MSc, BVet Med, MRCVS, Veterinary Practitioner, Swaledale Tel 01748 884620; Dr Verner Wheelock Ph D, BSc, B Agr. FIFST. Special Professor in Food Science, University of Nottingham Tel 01535 636008.
Sue.Haywood@freenet.co.uk Firs Farm,Keld, N. Yorkshire DL11 6LS
Emcmillan@europarl.eu.int 1 Ash Street, Poppleton Rd, York YO26 4UR
email@example.com Mr Paul Roger, BSc, MSc, Bvet Med, MRCVS, Veterinary Practitioner, Swaledale
firstname.lastname@example.org Dr Verner Wheelock, Archway Court, Broughton Hall, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 3AE