original foot and mouth infection'
By Joe Murphy, Political Editor
29 April 2001http://www.telegraph.co.uk
THE army was last night accused of being the source of the foot and mouth epidemic
after it admitted supplying untreated waste food to the pig
farm where the disease broke out.
In an astonishing development in the search for the epidemic's origin, The Telegraph has
learnt that slops - including waste meat imported from countries where the disease is rife
- were supplied to the farmers at the centre of the outbreak. The food was taken from the
kitchens of Whitburn Training Camp, near Sunderland, and fed to pigs at Bobby and Ronnie
Waugh's farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said last night: "We cannot comment on
the investigation into the source of the outbreak, because it might prejudice further
actions that may have to be taken, including prosecutions."
The link to the Waughs' farm was admitted by Baroness Symons, the defence minister, who
came under pressure from the Liberal Democrat peer, Lady Miller of Clithorne Domer.
"For more than 25 years, an unwritten agreement has existed between local Army
commanders and the Waugh brothers to dispose of a minimal amount of wet food waste on an
occasional basis," she said in a written answer to Lady Miller last week.
Bobby Waugh yesterday said that he last collected a lorryload of wet food slops from
Whitburn camp in December. The disease was identified at the farm on February 22, but was
thought by Maff vets to have been present among the 600 pigs for several weeks. Mr Waugh,
who is licensed by Maff to process waste into swill, added: "I collected waste food
from Whitburn around 10 times a year." He claimed that it was processed into swill at
a neighbour's farm.
MPs demanded an immediate inquiry into the affair and accused Maff of smearing the
Chinese restaurant trade to cover up the link to the Army. At the start of the foot and
mouth crisis there had been a furious row when a Maff official alleged that
illegal meat used in Chinese restaurants was probably to blame.
Some restaurants suffered a 40 per cent drop in trade as a result and demonstrators
marched on the ministry headquarters in London.
The Ministry of Defence faced calls to stop buying cheap meat for soldiers from
countries where foot and mouth is endemic. More than half of the meat served to soldiers
is imported, some from Brazil and Uruguay where the serotype O strain of foot and mouth -
the one that is ravaging Britain - is endemic.
The admission that imported Army meat went to the farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall is the
first time that a potential path of infection has been identified, although the MoD
claimed yesterday that its imported meat came from farms free of the disease. Last month,
when Maff said that swill was believed to be the source, it did not disclose the existence
of the contract between the Army and the Waugh brothers. Whitburn camp is a rifle range
used by the Territoral Army and the cadet force for four months a year.
Tim Yeo, the Tory agriculture spokesman, yesterday described the disclosure of the Army
supplies as "a very serious matter". He added: "I never believed that the
smear against the Chinese restaurants had any foundation and it now appears to have been
an attempt to divert attention away from the real culprit.
This must be investigated immediately and it cannot wait for the wider inquiry that
will be held after the epidemic has been defeated. We Conservatives were arguing long
before this outbreak that it was wrong for the Ministry of Defence to be importing so much
cheap meat from countries that do not meet the same standards of farming as the UK."
Lady Miller, the Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman, urged the Army to stop
importing meat from foot and mouth countries. "The slur on the Chinese restaurant
trade was utterly unfair. We need a stronger regime of quality checks."
Yesterday, the MoD said it was "sure" that its imports were not the source of
foot and mouth. A spokesman said: "There is no reason to suspect any MoD
establishment. Some meat is imported from Brazil and Uruguay, but it is from foot and
mouth-free regions of those countries and conforms with British and European
Fears that humans
had become infected with the foot-and-mouth virus diminished yesterday after a further
five people were cleared by medical tests.