Britain calls in army to tackle mountains of foot-and-mouth carcasses : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday, March 20 9:03 AM SGT

Britain calls in army to tackle mountains of foot-and-mouth carcasses LONDON, March 20 (AFP) - Britain's government announced early Tuesday that it was calling in the army as its attempts to get to grips with the rampant foot-and-mouth outbreak became increasingly desperate.

The defence ministry said that about 100 servicemen would be deployed to farms to help with the grim task of disposing of the growing mountain of culled animal carcasses.

Agriculture ministry officials said the number of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease rose on Monday to 335, an increase of nine from the weekend.

Soldiers were sent in as Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, in Brussels to meet with European farm ministers, pleaded with British farmers to cooperate with his officials over the controversial slaughter policy.

"If there is a fight or a war, it should be against the disease, not against each other," Brown said.

Some farmers have threatened a "rural revolt" if the government goes ahead with plans to cull up to half a million apparently healthy animals within a two mile (three kilometre) radius of infected sites.

Government scientists say the extended slaughter is needed to create firebreaks to prevent a secondary wave of infection being carried on the wind.

Brown was quoted as saying by the BBC: "I call upon the farmers to cooperate with the veterinary authorities who are working so hard to get this disease under control."

"We have difficult things to do, but fighting against ourselves will only make matters worse."

As the outbreak entered its fourth week, agriculture ministry officials said that about 300,000 animals have already been slaughtered, or are earmarked for slaughter.

The figure already represents more than two-thirds of the total number of cattle, pigs and sheep slaughtered during the seven months of the last big foot-and-mouth epidemic in 1967.

With resources stretched to the limit, farmers have complained that putrifying carcasses have been left lying in barns for weeks.

The government said that in the two regions most severely affected -- Devon, in the south-west of England and Cumbria in the north-west -- teams of two soldiers would be sent to farms where there are carcasses awaiting disposal.

"The army has already agreed to help us with the logistics of the disposal of carcasses in the two areas where we have the heaviest cases of disease," junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman told the BBC.

Chief vet Jim Scudamore received a frosty welcome on Monday when he went to Cumbria to explain that killing off healthy livestock was a necessary evil.

He was greeted with an ironic slow hand clap by a handful of irate farmers as he arrived in Carlisle, Cumbria's main town.

But he insisted that the mass slaughter would go ahead despite the opposition from farmers.

Scudamore said the extended cull would begin "within weeks" in Cumbria, although it has already started in Scotland on the orders of the semi-autonomous devolved government there.

David Handley, spokesman for militant group Farmers For Action, warned that his members would resort to direct action if government vets arrived to slaughter healthy animals.

"I have got no alternative now if our members say they're not going to have their healthy livestock slaughtered," he said. "We have no alternative but to stand in the gate with them and stop it from happening."

Foot-and-mouth, a highly contagious virus, is generally harmless to humans. But it induces influenza-type symptoms in livestock which slows their growth and makes it impossible to sell them.

In Britain, the epicentres of the infection are in south-western Scotland, Cumbria and Devon. The only case in Europe outside the United Kingdom is on a farm in north-western France.

Tough measures put in place to prevent the disease from spreading further have brought the British countryside to a near-standstill.

Farmland is off-limits to ramblers while zoos, animal sanctuaries and country parks have been closed and scores of sporting events called off.

Speaking in Brussels, Brown said the foot-and-mouth outbreak will get worse before it gets better.

"It will take us months to eradicate the final traces of this disease," he said, adding that "the number of cases will continue to rise because of what has already happened.


-- Carl Jenkins (, March 19, 2001

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