TRUE COST OF PLAGUE EPIDEMIC

May 24 2001
Special Report by Anna Lognonne

http://icnewcastle.ic24.com/page.cfm?objectid=11065077&method=full

The Government Ministry fighting foot and mouth has been accused of masking
the true extent of the crisis across Northumberland and County Durham.

Maff's official Internet website says 157 farms in the two counties have
lost all their livestock because foot-and-mouth has been confirmed.

But the true picture is far worse.:

* 383 extra farms have had their animals slaughtered because they were next
to a confirmed case or could be linked to one through the movement of
people.
*Another 25 farms have lost their animals because the disease was suspected,
although subsequent blood tests proved negative.
* Nearly 275,000 animals have been slaughtered in the two counties in an
attempt to bring the disease under control nearly 10pc of the national
number of animals killed to combat the disease.

Yet this information has been omitted from Maff's official website.

Visitors to the site are told which individual farms have been infected, a
national total of the farms taken out because of their links to infected
premises and the number of animals slaughtered across the country.

A spokesman for Maff said the names of the farms taken out under the
Government's cull of neighbouring farms and dangerous contacts are not
listed because of laws concerning data protection.

He said: "When it comes to publishing a list of farms taken out as a direct
contact, then data protection has to be taken into consideration.

"It is in the public interest to know which farms have been infected by
foot-and-mouth but with the contiguous cull there is not the need to know."

He added that the national number of farms taken out by the cull was updated
on Maff's website, although it was not not broken down into regions.

North-East National Farmers' Union spokesman Rob Simpson said: "It is
heart-breaking for any farmer who losses his livestock either to
foot-and-mouth or the Government's disease control methods.

"It is clear that while the number of infected premises nationally is 1,632
that masks the wider picture of how many farms have been cleared out. About
7,600 farmers have been left devastated. They have watched generations of
top breeding lines wiped out in a few hours and will be left wondering
whether they should go back into farming.

"It must also be remembered that some areas have luckily remained free of
the disease while others such as Cumbria, parts of Teesdale, Northumberland
and Durham have been badly hit. In these areas you can stand and look out
over a deserted countryside, devoid of livestock."

Maff's official website reveals that only two farms in Haltwhistle have been
confirmed as having foot-and-mouth - Cawfields and Cleughfoot - but a
further eight farms have had their livestock wiped out.

When the virus spread to the north of the county to North Charlton Farm at
Chathill near Alnwick, 12 further farms lost their animals in an attempt to
halt the spread.

And when foot-and-mouth was confirmed at The Craggs, Orchard Farm in
Middleton-in Teesdale, 21 other farms were taken out as well.

None of these culls are listed on the website.

Farmers who are not next door to an infected farm but live within about
three kilometres, are served with a Form 'D' notice, which places severe
restrictions on them.

Again none of these are listed on the website.

A spokeswomen for the Newcastle Emergency Disease Control Centre at Kenton
Bar said that the North-East figures could be of interest to the general
public and the centre is now considering including this information on a
regional website.

Nationally, foot-and-mouth has been confirmed at 1,628 farms, but a total of
7,616 farms have been taken out in an attempt to control the disease. That
equates to nearly three million animals, about five per cent of the national
pig and cattle herds and sheep flock.

Yesterday shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo accused Labour of covering up
the actual number of confirmed cases because of the election and called for
an independent statistician to be brought in to carry out a comprehensive
audit.

Speaking in North Yorkshire Mr Yeo said: "The Government is trying to sweep
this under the carpet. They are massaging the figures and there is going to
be a terrible legacy for farmers and the UK tourist industry."

But a spokeswoman from the Maff said last night that all confirmed cases
went onto the official statistics.

She said animals slaughtered as a pre-emptive measure were tested and if the
results were positive they were added to the official statistics.

Miles MacInnes, director of Northern property consultants, CSH (Clark
Scott-Harden), said last night there are now 710 reported infected cases of
FMD in Cumbria and over 1,250 farms on Form A notices.

This means 550 Cumbrian farms have had livestock slaughtered as dangerous
contacts, nearly 80pc more than is currently being reported.

Mr MacInnes said: "These statistics have not been published by Maff, nor
have the details of those with stock slaughtered under the 3km cull policy.
It seems that well over 3,000 farms in Cumbria alone will have lost their
livestock during this outbreak."

* Five temporary veterinary inspectors from the Newcastle Emergency Disease
Control Centre at Kenton Bar have been seconded to Leeds to deal with the
hotspot of FMD cases in Settle.

And eight Australian vets, who should have gone to the North-East have been
diverted there as well, as efforts are steped up to bring the new outbreak
under control.