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Brazil recommends wide cull to stop foot-and-mouth
By STAN LEHMAN The Associated Press 5/15/01 10:32 PM
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil's government on Tuesday recommended killing not only a few hundred cattle infected with the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease but also cattle from "neighboring properties" -- a dictum that could include hundreds of thousands of uninfected animals.
Agriculture officials in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul said they were angry about recommendations by the Agriculture Ministry because they had agreed to kill some 250 infected cattle.
"If we follow this recommendation, which sounds very much like an order, we will have to kill at least 400,000 animals," said Jose Hermeto Hoffmann, Rio Grande do Sul's agriculture secretary, adding "we will oppose it."
The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth in Brazil began about 10 days ago at the Cabanha Sao Pedro Ranch, about 310 miles southwest of Porto Alegre, the state's capital. Five days later, cases were found about 90 miles away, in Alegrete.
The disease, which generally strikes sheep, pigs, goats and cows, is a highly contagious viral illness, but it is not deadly to animals. It does not infect people.
In a report released Tuesday, the Agriculture Ministry recommended not only killing infected cattle and those in immediate contact with them, but also "all animals in neighboring properties that may have had some contact with the affected ranch."
Hoffmann said such a cull "could lead to mass unemployment and billions of dollars in lost revenue." He said that if the state doesn't follow the recommendations, he expects the government will "retaliate" by isolating Rio Grande do Sul and banning its agricultural products from being exported or sold.
Officials at Brazil's Agriculture Ministry were not available for immediate comment.
The federal and state governments had just begun last week to vaccinate the state's entire herd of 13 million cattle.
When the first outbreak was detected, officials agreed to create a buffer zone by vaccinating 4.1 million cattle in 25 of the region's cities near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, where foot-and-mouth outbreaks were registered several months ago.
But Agriculture Minister Marcus Vinicius Pratini de Moraes expanded the campaign to include the state's entire herd, claiming the Rio Grande do Sul state government was unable to monitor and control the proposed buffer zone.
Hoffmann said the state's opposition to killing the animals stems from "the fact that neither Uruguay or Argentina are slaughtering their infected animals."
"What's the use of killing animals and incurring heavy losses if the virus is right across the border," Hoffmann said.
Last month, Brazil banned the import of all animal-based products from Uruguay and sent troops to the border in an attempt to stop infected cattle from being smuggled in.
Chile and Argentina have suspended imports of Rio Grande do Sul beef and Britain has done the same with all Brazilian beef, said Enio Marques, executive director of Brazilian Beef Exporters Association.
Rio Grande do Sul, which accounts for almost 10 percent of Brazil's herd of 160 million head of cattle -- one of the world's largest -- is responsible for about 8 percent of the country's beef exports.
Rio Grande do Sul weathered an outbreak of foot-and-mouth last year, which it controlled by slaughtering some 11,000 animals.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), May 15, 2001