Foot and Mouth: second outbreak

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn confirmed this morning that animals culled after a suspected second outbreak of Foot and Mouth were infected with the disease. He said that vets had spotted visual signs of the disease and had decided to cull as a precautionary measure yesterday, with tests being carried out overnight.

Up to 100 cows were slaughtered at the farm in Surrey, which was within the 3km protection zone set up around the original site of infection. Chief vet Debby Reynolds has said that the recent floods may have contributed to the outbreak, but is waiting to hear the results, expected today, of the investigations into the Pirbright and Merial laboratories to see whether either lab was responsible for the leak.

The Government has ordered 300,000 doses of the Foot and Mouth vaccine from Merial, but a decision to use them has not yet been made. Hilary Benn has said: ‘In order to consider [vaccination] as an option, we’ve got to have the vaccine ready.’ He has also urged farmers to act with extreme caution and report any suspected cases; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) helpline is 08459 335 577. However, Trading Standards has confirmed that it is investigating two cases of alleged illegal movement of livestock in Lincolnshire.

David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), has issued a statement this morning, saying: ‘It’s not surprising that we are witnessing more culling during this foot and mouth outbreak – such a virulent disease as this does spread quickly as we saw in 2001. But, let’s not panic. The Government has again acted swiftly and it’s in the protection zone so it’s not an excuse for increased drama.’ He is due to meet for talks with Hilary Benn later today.

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance has raised a petition on the Number 10 website. It reads: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to compensate all businesses affected by Foot and Mouth and recognise the social as well as economic impact it will have on the countryside.’