PRESS RELEASE: 25 February 2002


Has the disease really been eradicated or is it just the method of recording Infected Premises which has changed?

Over 200,000 animals and 645 farms have been added to the Foot and Mouth slaughter and premises totals since the last case was 'confirmed' on the 30 September 2001 Since the 1 January 2002, alone,  85,948 animals have been added to the slaughter figures.

Also, since the last official 'confirmed' case a further 645 premises have been added to the number of affected premises rising from 9,488 on the 30 Sept 2001 to 10,133 on 20 February 2002.  'Affected premises' includes Infected Premises, Dangerous Contacts, Slaughter on Suspicion and Contiguous Cull premises.

The slaughter figures have increased from 3,907,561 animals on 30 Sept 2001 to 4,112,021 on 21 February 2002.   A total increase in the number of animals slaughtered of 204,446 since 30 Sept 2001. All figures are derived from the DEFRA website.

The Government has said in Parliamentary Answers (17 Dec and 24 Jan) that circa 6,000 animals have been culled since the end of the epidemic, as a result of returning sero positive results on blood testing.  The question must be put as to why it has also proved necessary to include a further 198,000 animals in the slaughter totals. If this is purely due to 'cleaning up' of data at DEFRA it still raises the question as to how the figures could still be adrift by 85,000 on 1 January 2002. Since 1 May 2001 the NFMG have been asking Government for its definition of a 'Confirmed Case' of FMD.  Are Infected Premises confirmed on clinical signs, the presence of antibodies or the presence of live virus?  An answer is still awaited.   Certainly until the 30 September antibody positive results were determining Infected Premises, so why has the criterion changed?

Much confusion surrounds the issues of why so many animals are still being slaughtered, and whether the disease has really been eradicated or whether it is the method of determining Infected Premises which has changed. 

Even more disturbing is the fact that the sheep found to be anti body positive at Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria was part of a sentinel flock.  Such a flock, put out on to the land to ensure there is no residual disease present, must have been previously screened to ensure it was free of FMD antibodies.   This then raises the questions, where, how and when did this sheep contract the infection.

Most perplexing of all is how the Government managed to persuade the Office International Epizooties, based in Paris, that the UK was disease free if sero positive cases were still being found.  It seems the Government has much to explain.

Contacts:   Janet Bayley, Val Lusmore, Anne Lambourn Further details and background papers are available if required.