FOOD AND MOUTH DISEASE: PARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT BY MINSTER OF AGRICULTURE, MONDAY 26 FEBRUARY
'As my right honourable friend Baroness Hayman reported on 21 February, the first case of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom for 20 years was confirmed on the evening of last Tuesday 20 February in pigs at an abattoir and in cattle on a neighbouring farm near Brentwood in Essex.
'The number of confirmed cases of foot and mouth disease rose to nine this morning. Two further cases, bringing the total to eleven, have been confirmed early this afternoon.
'Today's cases are first, in sheep at Hatherleigh near Okehampton, Devon, at another farm in the same ownership as the one confirmed yesterday; at Bromham, near Chippenham, Wiltshire in sheep at an abattoir which received animals
from the Devon source; in a pig farm between the two cases in Northumberland, which is likely to have been windborne spread; and at a sheep and cattle farm near the Welsh border in Herefordshire which had also received sheep from Devon.
'Infected Area restrictions are being imposed. A decision was taken at lunchtime today to kill the remaining animals on the several premises in Devon under the same ownership, and one neighbouring farm, as dangerous contacts.
'Investigations are continuing into a number of other premises where there is reason to believe there may be disease. The government's overriding priority is the containment and eradication of this disease.
'On 21 February, the United Kingdom government and the European Commission acted swiftly to prohibit temporarily the export of live animals, meat, fresh milk and other animal products from the UK.
Given the acutely infectious nature of foot and mouth disease, this was a necessary step in helping to prevent the spread of the disease to other countries. We are able to export non-susceptible animals and their products provided they meet certain conditions and are accompanied by veterinary certificates. Appropriate certificates are now available for issue from MAFF animal health offices.
'We immediately ceased issuing export health certificates for export to third countries for any animals or products which cannot also be exported to other EU member states. This applies whether or not the import conditions for a given country would allow us to export.
'We are urgently tracing all exports of FMD susceptible animals from areas under suspicion to other member states, since 1 February but before the export ban came into effect. The EU Commission have been kept informed at every stage, along with our EU partners.
'I shall be updating the Council of Agriculture Ministers tomorrow. In particular we advised the German authorities of a consignment of sheep from the Devon outbreak and these were slaughtered by the German authorities yesterday.
'Some of the cases have been on premises which are associated with substantial movements of animals. The confirmation of the cases in Northumberland on Friday 23 February showed that the disease was not confined to Essex, and had been in the country longer than had at first been apparent.
'In these new circumstances, the chief veterinary officer advised that stringent controls were needed. After discussion with the food and farming industries, and with the devolved administrations, I announced later on Friday 23 February that there should be a seven-day standstill of livestock movements throughout Great Britain. This exceptional measure was imposed at 5pm on Friday, and is due to expire at midnight this Friday 2 March.
'The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency have confirmed that foot and mouth disease has no implications for human health or food. 'The disease causes serious loss of condition, and therefore commercial value, to the main farmed animal species of cattle, pigs and sheep. The presence of disease also blocks our
export markets. The disease is highly infectious between animals. It can be transmitted by movements of people and vehicles. Unlike classical swine fever with which we had to deal in East Anglia last year, it is carried through the air.
'Firm control measures had to be taken. The government is well aware of the disruption the temporary 'controlled area' in Great Britain has caused to farming, the food chain and the wider rural community. I pay tribute to the responsible approach that the industry and the public are taking.
'During the course of this week, the state veterinary service, under the chief veterinary officer, will continue its huge task of tracing and controlling the disease. They have been assured of all the resources they need for that task. The Government is calling on the private veterinary profession and other country's state veterinary services for assistance.
'Baroness Hayman, the minister of state, will be meeting industry representatives tomorrow with the chief veterinary officer. Amongst other matters, they will discuss whether it is possible, consistent with a rigorous approach to the control of disease, to allow for some tightly controlled movement of livestock for slaughter.
Consideration is also being given to the temporary closure of footpaths and rights of way.
'We are keeping in the closest touch with the retailers and food producers, to ensure that there should be no serious disruption to food supplies. I am grateful to consumers who have, as I have requested, continued their normal pattern of buying.
'The house will know that the policy of successive governments has been that compensation is paid only for animals which are slaughtered for disease control purposes - in the case of foot and mouth disease, at full market value. Foot and mouth disease presents a relatively clear clinical picture. Incubation periods tend to be short. I therefore hope that movement restrictions necessary for disease
control will not have to be too protracted.
'The government is determined to eliminate this disease. I, my ministerial team and my department's staff will give this work the highest priority. I welcome the firm support we have received from the industry, from people throughout the country, from our European partners, and from others further afield, in our efforts to do so.'