Farms vulnerable to diseases
farms are vulnerable to a wide range of tropical diseases as well as to the
return of foot-and-mouth, MPs were warned today.
Globalisation has vastly increased the danger from
viruses previously unknown in the UK, said the chairman of the Royal Society
inquiry into livestock infections, commissioned by the government after last
year`s foot-and-mouth epidemic.
The government should draw up ``rules of
engagement`` now for outbreaks of each potential disease, so there is no repeat
of the furious arguments seen last year over whether culling or vaccination
should be used to beat foot-and-mouth, said Prof Sir Brian Follett.
contingency plan for dealing with a recurrence of foot-and-mouth should include
emergency vaccination as a ``tool of first resort`` alongside the culling of
animals directly affected, the Commons Rural Affairs Committee
Prof Follett said he was ``not sanguine`` about the prospect of
Britain being adequately prepared for future outbreaks of serious animal
Increased movement of meat and animals around the world meant
foot-and-mouth outbreaks were more likely to come more frequently than they did
during the 20th century, while previously ``exotic`` viruses were becoming
established in Europe.
He told the MPs: ``These diseases are around.
There is evidence that they are moving - some of them - closer to
``We can be fairly certain the risk is out there - whether it has
gone up or down 5% is in the detail. It is out there and we need a package of
measures that will hold the whole thing down.
``Any idea that we can
solve it with just culling or just emergency vaccination seems to me to miss the
Classical swine fever, which is not native to Europe, had
entered the German wild boar population and was regularly infecting farm pigs
there, while the ``particularly nasty`` disease blue tongue had crossed over
from Africa to infect sheep in southern Europe.
``It seems to me that we
have, as a society, to come up with a resolution for rules of engagement and
those rules must surely be established before outbreaks occur. You can`t have
these debates during an outbreak,`` said Prof Follett.
difficulties with emergency vaccination for foot-and-mouth should be overcome
within the next 18-24 months, the MPs heard.
Within the next few weeks,
Margaret Beckett`s Rural Affairs Department will announce its response to the
inquiry team`s report into infectious diseases in livestock, which was published