Following yesterday’s cull of 4,000 sheep, a further 1,500 sheep are to be slaughtered in Wales after blood tests revealed new evidence of exposure to foot and mouth disease in sheep grazing in the Brecon Beacons. The total number of confirmed infected sheep in Wales stands at 114.

As many as 4,000 sheep will be moved down from the Beacons for testing before the end of the week, and farmers are concerned that remaining flocks are now under threat. The Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs committee has been called back from its summer recess to agree emergency measures to handle this latest outbreak of the disease and debate relief packages for farmers.

Malpractice allegations

Further North, in Cumbria, 84,000 sheep are to be blood-tested following concerns that the disease is spreading to previously uncontaminated areas. Confusion prevails over why uncontaminated areas are now showing signs of the disease, with some parties alleging underhand practices.

A spokesman for the Farmers’ Union of Wales said a compensation fraud scam could lie at the root of the case. The Government is looking into allegations that some farmers may have deliberately infected their animals with the disease to qualify for the compensation payments, generally regarded as generous. A sick sheep can currently fetch up to £90 (US$128) in government compensation, far more than a healthy animal could fetch on the open market.

Meanwhile, parties found breaching animal regulations aimed at restricted the spread of the disease could be handed down fines. From tomorrow [1 August], anyone found driving a dirty vehicle to transport animals will face a fine which could be as high as £5,000, and officials will scour the area for offenders, reported the BBC.