'Government Slow to Action Cull' RESEARCH: Universities Claim Implementation from Day One Could Have Limited Spread and Saved 30pc of Stock

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NEW research showing that the foot-and-mouth crisis would have been over sooner and fewer animals would have been killed if the Government had introduced a mass slaughter policy earlier has been described as "heartbreaking" for Welsh farmers.

The research by three British universities concludes that a mass cull from day one would have limited the spread and was the best way of handling the crisis.Vaccination would have had only a limited effect.

There have been more than 2,000 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK, 118 of which were in Wales, since the outbreak began in February, leading to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals.

National Farmers' Union Cymru spokeswoman Leigh Roberts said yesterday, "The findings of this new research will be heartbreaking to farmers whose animals have been caught up in the foot-and-mouth slaughter over the past seven months.

"We continually pressed Government for the culling policy to be carried out as quickly as possible to bring an end to the disease. Farmers were frustrated, angry and desperate that they could see the policy often falling apart in front of their eyes."

And Alan Morris, of the Farmers' Union of Wales, welcomed the research, which he said backed up the union's call for a slaughter policy to be implemented at an early stage.

"We're pleased that this research has confirmed that the slaughter policy was the right approach and the union would agree that the Government dragged its feet during the early stages of the disease.

"The first case of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain was on February 20 and the first case in Wales was on February 27. On March 4, FUW president Bob Parry called for the contiguous cull to be introduced, but it was not implemented until March 15. …