Environmental News Archive

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British Farmers 'very Scared'

Aug 8 2007 (TODAY)

Tests give rise to new fears of cattle disease spreading

LONDON - Tests confirmed a second outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease
southwest of London, raising fears the highly contagious virus could
spread to herds across southern England.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said a second batch of cows, tested on
Monday, were within the 3-kilometre-radius protection zone set up on

The outbreak occurred 6.5 kilometres from a laboratory that produces
vaccines containing the same rarely-seen strain of foot-and-mouth disease.

Mr Benn was expecting an initial report yesterday to see if there have
been breaches in security or safety at the laboratory, which is the focus
of investigations into the outbreak.

The laboratory is shared by the government's Institute for Animal Health
and a private pharmaceutical company, Merial Animal Health. Both
organisations said they had found no evidence of a breach in biosecurity.

Mr Roger Pride, who runs a farm near Godalming, southern England, where
the first outbreak was confirmed, said Tuesday he believed contamination
of a local sewer could be behind the cases.

The outbreaks come on the heels of widespread flooding, and investigators
are examining the possibility that the waters might have helped spread the

"The theory that the sewer which overflows into part of the field where
the 38 cattle were grazing could be the cause is an obvious possibility,"
Mr Pride said. He said no one at the infected farm had any contact with
the vaccine laboratory.

News of a second outbreak fed fears of a repeat of scenes in 2001, when 7
million animals were culled and incinerated on pyres, devastating
agriculture and rural tourism in Britain.

"We were starting to think this virus had been contained and maybe we were
going to be getting back to normality in a few weeks," farmer Laurence
Matthews, who owns the farm where the second infected herd grazed, told

"Now this has set us back again and most farmers, and I've been speaking
to a few, are very, very scared," he said. Matthews said the infected cows
belonged to a fellow farmer who used his land.

Britain has banned the export of livestock, meat and milk. It has also
halted the movement of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs nationwide to prevent
the spread of the virus. - AGENCIES