Culling questioned

A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has challenged the Government on new proposals to deal with foot and mouth disease following the publication of Defra research.

Sir Alan Beith’s Berwick constituency was ravaged by the disease in 2001 when six million animals in the UK were slaughtered to halt the spread of the disease.

Now research from a team at the Institute for Animal Health has identified a test for the disease which can be carried out before an animal becomes infected.

Sir Alan asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether the Government would review the policy “of the pre-emptive culling of cattle during foot and mouth outbreaks” in light of this research.

Speaking for the Government, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food said: “This is an important piece of research on foot and mouth disease in young cattle. DEFRA is collaborating with the researchers at the Institute for Animal Health to assess the value of these findings in managing disease outbreaks.

“Quick reporting of suspect cases of the disease by farmers and veterinarians and selective culling of animals, coupled with vaccination where that can make an effective contribution to control, remain the best way of stopping this disease.”

Sir Alan said: “People in rural Northumberland will remember the terrible effect the mass culls had on our farmers and I welcome any progress that can be made to ensure we never have to go through a mass cull again.”