Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100,000 Sheep to Be Slaughtered in Pre-Emptive Strike

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

100,000 Sheep to Be Slaughtered in Pre-Emptive Strike

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK HENNESSY;PATRICK SAWER

MINISTERS are to order the mass slaughter of at least 100,000 sheep in a desperate "pre-emptive strike" against the further spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said moves would be made to "take out" apparently healthy animals that were transported throughout the country by two firms of livestock dealers before the recent outbreak was detected.

Mr Brown told Radio Four's World At One: "We understand how it has been caused. It's the movements within the industry - it's been spread unwittingly by dealers.

"In order to pre-empt what may be incubating, we're looking at taking out healthy animals which are at risk on a precautionary basis. What we don't know is how much infectivity is among the national flock, nor do we know where it is incubating."

Government scientists believe the dealers' movements - which number around 1,000 - were responsible for much of the spread of the outbreak that has left large parts of the countryside in quarantine.

Mr Brown will give full details of the programme of "intensified slaughter" to MPs tomorrow. It will involve all sheep known to have been moved by the dealers in question and will number at least 100,000 - although Downing Street said the final total could run into "hundreds of thousands".

Sheep will be killed "on suspicion", whether there is evidence that they have foot-and-mouth or not.

At Question Time in the Commons today, Opposition Leader William Hague called for the Government's slaughter policy to be stepped up.

He also demanded that rural businesses suffering the effects of the crisis should be exempted from rates.

Prime Minister Tony Blair replied that the Government was "looking at how we can step up the slaughter in those areas most directly affected".

And he said Ministers were examining how the access restrictions might be varied in areas not affected. …

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