To help ensure that the current outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease is contained and eradicated as quickly as possible, the Ministry of Agriculture is prohibiting the movement of all sheep, cattle, pigs and goats within Great Britain. Great Britain will be declared a "Controlled Area" under the Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1993 from 5pm today until Friday 2 March.

Speaking in London this afternoon Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said:

"Foot and Mouth Disease has been confirmed on the farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall in Tyne and Wear. It seems likely that this farm may have been the source of the current outbreak. Disease appears to have been present for two to three weeks, and there have been regular personnel and transport links with the Essex abattoir. The State Veterinary Service have already identified some 400 animal and vehicle movements which need to be investigated.

"The Chief Veterinary Officer for Great Britain, Jim Scudamore, has advised me that there is therefore a real risk that FMD could appear anywhere in the UK. In the circumstances, and after discussion with interested parties in the farming and food industries, he has advised that there should be a seven-day standstill of livestock movements throughout the country. With the relatively short incubation period of FMD, this should give us a much better handle on what kind of outbreak we are facing; and meanwhile stop the movements which pose the greatest risk of spread.

"While this will obviously be disruptive, there was general support from the farming and food industries this morning that this is the right approach.

"The controls will be brought into effect at 5pm today. Journeys which have already begun at that time may continue to destination. The controls will be based on the establishment of a "controlled area" under the 1983 Foot & Mouth Disease Order. However that would normally permit local authorities to issue licences for certain types of movement. Our presumption is that there should be no movements for this short period. I will therefore retain a reserve power to permit the issuing of licences, to cover any exceptional circumstances which come to light over the next few days.

"I shall be taking these powers for England & Wales. Parallel measures are expected to be brought in Scotland. Northern Ireland is a separate area for disease control purposes, but may well follow suit.

"We shall be working in the closest co-operation with all in the relevant business and rural communities, whose responsible approach to the present disease is appreciated, and essential to restricting the spread of disease. We believe that the food chain can sustain an interruption of up to a week in fresh supplies. We will obviously look carefully at any real difficulties next week.

"The controlled species are those susceptible to FMD - pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and the like. Poultry and horses are not affected; nor is the supply of milk.

"The controls will close fairs and markets, and prohibit deer and fox hunting, and hare coursing, because of the risk of disease spread.

"During that period, officials would work with the industry and local authorities to establish what regime should come in after this week.

"Over and above these controls, I call on the whole farming and rural community to exercise responsibility, and avoid any unnecessary gatherings of people, or movements of large numbers of people, on farm land."


Notes for Editors

1. The Helpline Telephone 0845 050 4141 (local rate) is open between 8 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 pm on Saturday.

2. Anyone wanting more specific information about restrictions on the movement of animals in the infected area in Essex or wishing to report suspicious signs in their animals or livestock, should contact their local MAFF Animal Health Divisional Office.

  • For enquiries on the export of live animals, ring 0207 904 6343

  • For enquiries on the export of meat and animal products, ring 0207 904 6417/6418

  • For enquiries on the export of semen, embryos and ova, ring 904 6442

3. For more details visit the MAFF website on: http://www.maff.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/fmd. This site will be updated daily.