Friday, 10 August 2007

The foot and mouth crisis

The foot and mouth crisis in Surrey has been ongoing for a week now and it would seem to have been contained in a small area. There has been an additional possible outbreak near Dorking but initial indications are that the animals in this case haven't got F & M. I hope I'm right, in this sort of crisis one's comments can be swiftly overtaken by events.

Thankfully the paralysis that initially surrounded the government in 2001 hasn't happened on this occasion: the authorities have moved far more quickly this time round.

Devon and Cornwall, being counties with significant livestock production, are particularly liable to feel the effects from any outbreak of F & M and there is a particular point I want to flag up. As I understand the situation cows in our area can (rightly) be moved from field to milking parlour but other livestock are restricted in their movements unless going for slaughter. But what about the welfare of sheep for instance. The trouble is that the rules are so rigid not allowing flexibility for local circumstances. I cannot see a problem with sheep being moved across a country lane if they need fresh pasturage. If necessary the farmer could be made to lay straw soaked in disinfectant for the road crossing and the authorities then monitor the situation. I feel strongly that animal welfare should be considered here and then of course there are the very few sheep in this country which are milked for cheese production. What happens to them? Good news though for pig farmers in particular that they can now send their animals to the abattoir.

Let's hope that this F & M worry is soon behind us.

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