by PA News reporters (October 30, 2001)

Mass culling would remain the Government's policy in the event of a further outbreak of foot-and-mouth, in spite of the experience of this year's epidemic, Lord Whitty said today.

The food minister said he would not pre-empt the three independent inquiries being carried out into the outbreak. But he confirmed that, at present, Government policy on culling had not changed.

Lord Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "Policy at the moment would be to follow the successful dimensions of the strategy we have adopted so far, which is basically that the culling, as long as we match the target figures, is effective in containing the disease.

"There may be other measures which could be supportive to that - measures of tighter biosecurity and control of movements and import controls - but we would at this point primarily go for culling.

"At the moment, we can see vaccination being a support to culling in certain circumstances, but it is not an alternative to culling."

Lord Whitty suggested that more vets might be recruited by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, after evidence that the current workforce had been overstretched by the epidemic.

The question of staffing levels would be considered by one of the three independent inquiries, headed by Dr Iain Anderson, he said.

He said: "Clearly, resources are part of the strain that was felt by Defra staff on the ground.

"Clearly there have been reductions - over the period primarily of the last government - in the size of the state veterinary service. That may be an issue and I am sure it will be one that Dr Anderson will want to address."

) PA News 2001