FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 2 AUGUST 2001

Today the Soil Association renewed its call for a policy of voluntary vaccination against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

With new outbreaks continuing to occur, particularly threatening pig production farms in Yorkshire, no one can claim that the disease is under control. The Soil Association believes that the time has come for a change of policy as the massive cull of hefted sheep continues in the Brecon Beacons.

Helen Browning, Chair of the Soil Association,
'We have been advocating a policy of voluntary vaccination since March and are still hopeful that reason will prevail. The Government and farming organisations must recognise vaccination could have a key role to play if we are to have a chance of controlling the disease before winter makes the task even more difficult. '

The Soil Association has called for a policy of voluntary vaccination to be used in two circumstances:

* for use as a strategic control in existing infected areas
* as a 'firebreak' or 'cordon sanitaire' with all livestock species

In the Netherlands a policy of vaccination in a defensive ring around outbreaks eradicated the disease within weeks earlier this year. The ring vaccination policy could be on a voluntary basis with contiguous farms being offered the option of either culling their animals or accepting vaccination.

There would be no need to cull vaccinated animals, which do not develop FMD, after the danger of infection has passed and are perfectly safe to eat. for use by farmers on holdings in infected areas in the UK who wish to protect their livestock from possible infection.

This would enable producers to protect rare or native breeds, organic livestock or highly valued breeding livestock against the disease. Without such a policy we are in danger of continuing to destroy an invaluable national asset unnecessarily.

Most opponents of vaccination have argued that a policy of vaccination would delay regaining the disease free status necessary for the resumption of meat exports. This argument is no longer valid. British consumers are eating meat from Argentina and Brazil, which have regional vaccination programmes. The Netherlands have restarted exports of meat after using vaccination to successfully eradicate FMD earlier this year.

We believe it is important to emphasise to the public that vaccination could provide a humane, economic and safe way out of this crisis and avoid the needless slaughter of healthy animals.

ENDS

Contact
Helen Browning
01793 791460
Soil Association Chairman
m 07831 40649

Soil Association press office out of hours

07747 021117