6 June 2001
Virus threat from culls without vet

By Donald MacPhail FOOT-AND-MOUTH disease
may have spread undetected because livestock have been culled without
veterinary supervision, a vet has claimed. Ministry of Agriculture rules
stating that a vet must be present at slaughter have been flouted in parts of
North Yorkshire, he told
FARMERS WEEKLY. The vet, who asked not to be named,
said it may be impossible to trace the spread of the disease, as no one knows
if the slaughtered animals were infected. Unsupervised culling took place on
farms neighbouring existing outbreaks and on premises where stock were
classified as dangerous contacts, he claimed. "This is very serious," he
said. "If you don't know whether the animals are infected, how will you know
which area will be infected next? "You don't know where it is, you can't
follow it, you can't plan and can't figure out which way it's going." The
alleged breach of slaughter rules occurred earlier on during the crisis when
MAFF's Leeds office had responsibility for culling animals in North
Yorkshire. A spokeswoman for MAFF Leeds office said she had heard nothing to
support the allegations and believed staff had adhered to proper procedures.
The vet said farmers had complained that MAFF had been high-handed and
refused to work closely with the National Farmers' Union and local
authorities. "The feeling on the ground is that MAFF's getting a very
negative response from farmers and local populations. Local people feel
deserted." But a spokesman for the NFU in north-east England insisted that
the union and ministry staff had a good working relationship in the area. The
vet said practices had improved since the discovery of a foot-and-mouth
cluster in the Settle area in North Yorkshire and in Clitheroe in Lancashire.
Meanwhile, a farmer in West Sussex is waiting to learn if foot-and-mouth
movement restrictions placed on his farm are to be lifted. The farm was
placed under Form D restriction after it was visited by a feed lorry
previously operating on infected premises in north-west England. A
spokeswoman in MAFF's Reading office said the Form D notice was due to expire
on Thursday (07 June), subject to a veterinary inspection.

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