Foot and mouth may have spread to Europe : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

ISSUE 2103 Monday 26 February 2001

Foot and mouth may have spread to Europe By David Brown, Agriculture Editor and Richard Savill

FOOT and mouth disease threatened to spread to Europe yesterday after a seventh case was confirmed on a farm in Devon owned by a dealer who exports large numbers of sheep to France. Click to enlarge

A senior Ministry of Agriculture vet said that the spread of the disease was "extremely serious" and could reach the scale of the 1967 outbreak. John Cross, the head of veterinary services in the South West, spoke as checks were being made at 12 other farms owned by William Cleave, whose sheep and cattle have been infected at Highampton.

Fears grew that an unknown number of infected lambs were shipped abroad before export licences were suspended on Tuesday. Richard Haddock, Devon's representative on the ruling council of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, said: "Real fear is gripping the farming community now. Everyone down here is petrified."

He said: "Even if they don't have the disease, they cannot move any livestock, so they can't get any income. We are approaching March when we have to pay bills and settle our rents. Many people simply don't know where the money will come from."

Three royal parks, Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park, all in south-west London, were shut from midnight to stop the disease from spreading to deer herds. Residents, including Princess Alexandra, will have restricted access. Vehicles must be be disinfected.

So far about 1,300 pigs, 450 cattle and 250 sheep have been slaughtered on the first six infected farms. They will all be burned on site. A suspected case was being investigated at Bowsden Moor Farm, Bowsden, Northumberland. The first suspected case in Wales was being investigated at an abattoir at Gaerwen, Anglesey.

The size of the cull will rise dramatically after the latest outbreak, at Burdon Farm, run by Mr Cleave, a farmer and dealer. The ministry said that Mr Cleave bought sheep from as far north as Carlisle. All 600 cattle and 1,500 sheep at the farm will be destroyed. Mr Cleave, who operates from 10 other sites in Devon and two in Cornwall, said that he believed the disease could have emerged through animals bought at market.

Vets found foot and mouth blisters on one of his cattle and 50 others were salivating unusually. Mr Cross said that he was particularly worried that Mr Cleave was a dealer and that the farm was close to Hatherleigh, which has one of the busiest markets and abattoirs in the South West.

He said: "An extremely serious situation has arisen. We are involved in a complex tracing exercise and are checking with the owner exactly what movements there have been. If we find that animals have been exported, the ministry will notify the European authorities so that the animals can be slaughtered. One of the reasons for concern is the danger of aerial spread. In 1967 it was one of the main ways the disease spread."

He said: "The Chief Veterinary Officer has said that this outbreak is getting towards 1967 proportions. We are not at that stage yet, but there is great potential for that position to be repeated." Government vets expressed concern that the disease could be passing unnoticed in sheep because the symptoms resemble those of other diseases.

Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, was in sombre mood as he prepared to travel to Brussels today for talks about curbing aid to livestock farms - an attempt by the European Commission to meet the soaring cost of tackling the beef crisis. Referring to the Devon outbreak, he said: "This is a serious development; there is no denying that. But it does confirm that we were absolutely right to put the movement restriction in place when we did."

Mr Brown may make a statement to Parliament before flying to Brussels. While he has received messages of sympathy and offers of help from several European countries, he will be questioned closely by EU farm ministers about progress being made to eliminate the outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.

Belgium imposed a ban on the transport of live sheep and goats, but not of pigs and cattle, and France is expected to take emergency measures. The spread of the disease has all but destroyed hopes that the EU will lift its temporary ban on British meat, livestock and many food products in four days' time.

That ban, combined with the British seven-day ban on all movements of cattle, sheep, pigs and goats, will cost farmers and food manufacturers about £100 million. Even the weather conspired against farmers and Government vets. Snow fell at Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, where vets were preparing a pyre for 500 pigs destroyed there, and in many other areas of Britain.

Snow enables the virus, which cannot survive long in bright conditions, to linger. It was also windy - conditions that can spread it. Jim Scudamore, the Chief Veterinary Officer, said that he had not ruled out that the virus could have spread to Britain on the wind from an unreported outbreak in Europe.

Farmers were furious that many walkers were ignoring appeals from the Government, farming unions and the Ramblers' Association, to stay off farms.

They were also angry that the Government had not imposed an immediate ban on imported meat.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 26, 2001


Germany 'may slaughter thousands of UK animals'

Germany has slaughtered 350 sheep imported from Britain and officials may kill thousands more to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth.

The sheep, from a British farm hit by the disease, were killed over two days in North Rhine-Westphalia. Tests on the carcasses found no traces of the disease.

The Dutch have also slaughtered 3,000 sheep, deer and other livestock that could have come into contact with infected British animals to stem fears of foot-and-mouth disease.

German government officials are scrambling to find ways to prevent the highly infectious disease from reaching the country and dealing a further blow to consumer confidence in the safety of meat.

Beef sales have already slumped since the detection of mad cow disease in German cattle in November. Now, officials are deciding whether to slaughter all flocks which include sheep imported from Britain in the last four weeks.

According to the government, about 3,500 sheep were imported into Germany since January 20. Most have already been slaughtered and the rest placed in quarantine.

The government is trying to trace other imports, including shipments possibly brought in via countries such as the Netherlands, that could bring the disease to Germany.

Vets are also due to check about 3,000 British pigs on 20 farms in Lower Saxony for the disease as well testing animals in states including North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein. The results are due later this week.

Livestock markets across the country would be shut for a week. Authorities also said they would tighten border checks at Munich and Frankfurt airports.

Last updated: 17:42 Monday 26th February 2001

-- Martin Thompson (, February 26, 2001.

The making of an epidemic

Special report: Foot and mouth disease

John Vidal, Paul Brown, Peter Hetherington, and Kate Connolly in Berlin Tuesday February 27, 2001 The Guardian

The impossibly tangled web which Ministry of Agriculture staff began to unravel last week now extends across three animal species, five countries and many British counties as foot and mouth disease carried by British sheep threatens to spread though Europe and even further afield. But as mainland Europe continued yesterday to try to identify and quarantine or kill those animals which they suspect may have come into contact with infected British sheep, it was becoming clear that the continental meat trade is so complex that a sheep born in Aberdeenshire could be trucked 1,600 miles before being slaughtered as far away as Beirut.

The detective story starts, for the moment, when 40 sheep were sent from Ian Williamson's Prestwick Hall farm at Ponteland near Newcastle airport to Hexham market on February 13. It is known that more than 3,500 animals were sold that day and all the buyers and sellers have to be traced and their animals monitored. The ministry hopes to complete tracing them in the next 24 hours.

More than a week later, foot and mouth disease was confirmed among cattle at Prestwick Hall farm shortly after Burnside farm at Heddon- on-the-Wall - barely four miles away - was pinpointed by the Ministry of Agriculture as the likely source of the national outbreak. Vets believe the virus was carried from infected pigs by wind to Prestwick Hall farm, and then to a neighbouring farm at Westerhope, near Newcastle - confirmed yesterday as the 10th outbreak.

They believe that the 40 sheep from Prestwick were sold to Willy Cleave, a Devon dealer who has 11 farms in the west country where he keeps sheep before sending them on to British abattoirs or for export. The 40 were then shipped on February 15 to Longtown market, Carlisle, which is one of the largest sheep markets in Europe and also acts as a holding centre. However the ministry still does not know for certain whether these sheep were the infected ones.

What is known is that the Longtown 40 were collected shortly afterwards and taken to Mr Cleave's Highampton farm in Devon. Cattle there developed foot and mouth but it was not known at the time they had caught it from sheep.

On February 21, some sheep from Highampton were trucked to Bromham slaughterhouse in Wiltshire, where they developed foot and mouth. The next day sheep from the same farm were sent to Northampton and sold at the local auction. Normally, about 85% of the 1,500 sheep sold that day would go for export but because the export route had been closed on February 17, these sheep would have been held by dealers. All are now being traced.

Separately Mr Cleave had, on February 12, trucked 348 sheep from Devon to Germany via Dover on the Cap Afrique, Britain's only dedicated livestock export ferry. Since then according to the ministry, he had sold other batches of sheep to British dealers intended for export. All these are also being searched for.

The last sheep exports from Britain to the continent were at 2am on February 17. The Cap Afrique left Dover loaded with hundreds of animals bound for Dunkirk. Farmer's Ferry, the company which owns it, said it had exported about 30,000 sheepin the two weeks before the ban. The ministry is having to trace all sheep exported on the Cap Afrique in the past three weeks.

Yesterday, the German authorities traced the 348 sheep sent directly by Mr Cleave to Germany on February 12 and killed them as a precautionary measure.

The Cap Afrique suspended all operations within hours of the first confirmed outbreak, but the European authorities say it may have been too late to prevent the disease spreading through Europe.

After long journeys from as far away as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the west country, animals are known to be highly susceptible to disease. If any of those exported in the past few weeks had already been infected, they could easily have passed it on.

Most live sheep exported from Britain are taken first to any one of more than 60 EU registered "holding stations" where they are kept, often with many thousands of other animals, for up to several days. British exporters favour a handful of large stations in Belgium and Holland.

However, according to Gilles Frojet of the major French holding station La Gatevinière at Argenton L'Eglise, there are many unofficial holding stations in mainland Europe which could also have received infected animals and could possibly duck the authorities' investigations.

Tracing livestock movements in Europe is difficult, said Mike Gooding of Farmers First, a British sheep exporter. British animals have full documentation, but many animals in continental holding centres are resold in job lots to buyers who quite legally alter their papers of origin.

"They are all mixed up which adds to the potential for disease and many are bought and sold," said Mr Gooding.

From these staging posts and markets, sheep go all over the continent and many are re-exported with Dutch, French or Belgian papers 1,000 miles or more to abattoirs in Italy, Greece and Spain. Hundreds of thousands of animals are then re-exported outside Europe, especially to the Middle East and North Africa via Italian ports.

Yesterday, the Dutch slaughtered 4,300 animals on 11 farms. The French farm ministry said that up to 47,000 sheep recently imported from Britain had been identified but it had not decided whether to kill them.

German officials announced a programme of slaughter for thousands of livestock. It began on two farms in the state of North Rhein Westphalia which, according to the state's agriculture minister, Bärbel Höhn, has received thousands of sheep and pigs from farms in Britain in the past few weeks, including from some of those which have been struck by the disease.

"If the virus spread to the continent, the entire European Union would risk losing its status as free of foot and mouth disease," said Bernard Vallat, director-general of the Paris-based International Epizootic Office. "The re-emergence of the disease in Britainpresents a potential major threat to European exports.",7369,443621,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, February 26, 2001.

EU nations start the slaughter

by John Sturgis Germany and the Netherlands today started slaughtering thousands of animals imported from the UK, fearful that foot-and-mouth disease may have been shipped across the sea.

In Brussels, riot police fired water cannon and made several arrests after farmers, angry that the disease may plunge their industry into crisis, broke through a ring of steel defending European Union headquarters.

Hundreds of tractors in slow-moving convoys had been used to block roads into the Belgian capital, and in northern France. French farmers also staged BSE demonstrations at northern ports, including Cherbourg and St Malo, dumping piles of farm waste in front of government buildings.

The French, who have imported some 47,000 sheep from Britain in the past 30 days alone, say they have identified and segregated the sheep but have yet to decide whether to slaughter them.

In Amsterdam, officials have ordered the killing of more than 3,000 animals as a preventative measure at 11 farms where animals had recently been imported from Britain. The picture was similar in Germany, where regional authorities in one state said they had started to slaughter animals imported from Britain as a precautionary move.

Bernard Vallat, director-general of world animal health agency the International Epizootic Office, warned the EU could lose vast export markets such as the US if the disease spread.

Meanwhile Taiwan said today it had discovered three fresh cases of foot-and-mouth among pigs. The country is still reeling from a 1997 outbreak which led to the slaughter of a quarter of the country's 14 million pigs.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 27, 2001.

France to destroy 20,000 British sheep "Because of the growing number of sites with foot-and-mouth disease in Britain and because of the presence in France of animals that came from one of these sites, I have decided to slaughter and destroy 20,000 sheep imported from Britain" - French Agricultural Minister Jean Glavany France is to destroy 20,000 sheep imported from Britain as a precaution against foot-and-mouth disease, French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany has said.

The French move came as Germany also voiced its concerns, saying it was "extremely worried", and veterinary experts from around the European Union were meeting in Brussels for urgent talks.

Although no cases have yet been found outside Britain, other European nations are frightened the highly-infectious virus will jump across the English Channel.

Monsieur Glavany said he had decided to order the destruction of the animals because they had come from one of the infected sites in Britain where agricultural officials have detected the contagious foot-and-mouth virus.

"Because of the growing number of sites with foot-and-mouth disease in Britain and because of the presence in France of animals that came from one of these sites, I have decided to slaughter and destroy 20,000 sheep imported from Britain since February 1," he said.

He said 10,000 of the sheep had already been slaughtered for commercial purposes, but that their carcasses would instead be destroyed and removed from circulation in a preventive measure.

The other 10,000 animals would be destroyed as well.

The foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain has coincided with a period when sheep exports to France are especially high, as demand for mutton among the large Muslim community peaks before the Aid Al-Adha religious holiday on March 5.

Many other European countries have already taken limited action as a precaution against the spread of the disease:

Dutch authorities have destroyed nearly 3000 sheep, deer and other livestock that could have come into contact with infected British animals.

Germany has slaughtered 350 sheep imported from Britain and is considering killing thousands more.

Spain's Agriculture Ministry has also ordered the destruction of 540 pigs imported from Britain.

Belgium has banned the transport of live goats and sheep until 19 March and placed under supervision 15 farms that imported British animals this month.

Deputy agriculture minister Alexander Mueller of Germany has warned that the danger of foot-and-mouth spreading his country was "very high".

Regional farm and health ministers in Germany came up with emergency proposals following last week's outbreak in Britain.

These included the slaughter of all sheep originating from infected British farms, a closure of livestock markets for a week beginning on 28 February, building up a foot-and-mouth vaccine stockpile and tightening controls on animal transport.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 27, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ