New foot and mouth measures announced in the UK parliament today could see healthy animals earmarked for slaughter

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown outlined plans for a ‘pre-emptive strike’ against 100,000 sheep that may develop the disease. The Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told MPs that an intensified cull of animals which may have been exposed to the virus would be brought into force as “a policy of safety first”.

A strategy of intensive patrols by vets to all farms within three kilometres of each confirmed case will be introduced, while in the worst affected areas like Cumbria and Devon, all animals within the three-kilometre zone will be destroyed on a “precautionary basis”, Mr Brown said.

The government is also anxious to move pregnant sheep and cattle to lambing and calving sheds but may be forced to slaughter a further 500,000 animals due to movement restrictions. So far more than 130,000 of the 189,000 animals earmarked for slaughter have already been killed.

Up to 200,000 sheep will be culled in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland – one of the worst affected counties in the UK, the Scottish Agriculture Minister Ross Finnie announced. The measure will mean the slaughter of all sheep on every farm within 3km of known outbreaks.

Chief vet Jim Scudamore warned that an unknown quantity of cases might still exist as thousands of animals that passed through Welshpool market in Powys, Wales, on February 19 and through Northampton market on February 15 and 22, had still not been traced.

The outbreak in the UK is divided into three sections – areas with concentrations of the disease, areas with some isolated outbreaks, and disease-free region and it is expected that movement restrictions could be eased in the clean areas.

The economic cost of the outbreak continues to hit Britain with the Dairy Information and Policy Unit (DIPU) of agri-food economic and policy consultants Promar CEAS International estimating that the medium to long term effect of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) will cost the UK dairy and beef industry up to £330m in revenue foregone. This potential revenue loss is in addition to short-term costs such as export loss, displacement of domestic trade through imports etc., which have been widely reported.

The total of confirmed outbreaks of foot and mouth now stands at 240 in the UK with one confirmed case in France.

The European Union has threatened to complain to the World Trade Organisation after ninety countries banned live animal imports and meat and dairy products from the EU over the spread of foot and mouth disease.

“I am deeply disappointed by the actions taken by third countries,” David Byrne, EU health commissioner, told the assembly’s meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday. “If necessary we will make full use of our bilateral contacts and WTO trade arrangements to have these restrictions lifted.”

Ireland confirmed today that the US had lifted an export ban on such products from its shores.

Outbreaks have been confirmed in Argentina with an unconfirmed case in Saudi Arabia but these are not linked to the current crisis in Europe. published a feature on foot and mouth. To read it, click here.