March 13, 2002 The Daily Telegraph (London) by Robert UhligTHE countryside will be kept open and the pyres that demonised last year's foot and mouth epidemic will not be used to dispose of animal carcasses in any future outbreak of the disease, according to an interim contingency plan published yesterday.
The 62-page document is an initial response by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the widespread condemnation of the Government, which by its own admission did not have a contingency plan for a foot and mouth outbreak on last year's scale. Improving the flow of information between ministers and officials and the public, farmers and the media - one of the most heavily criticised shortcomings in last year's outbreak - still remains to be addressed. A section titled "Communications" is simply followed by the note: "To be added".
And the contingency plan is likely to change again when details of the Government's inquiries into the crisis are published this summer.
However, in contrast to last year's handling of the disease, all animal movements will be halted immediately, the strategy plan says.
"The countryside would be kept 'open'. The blanket approach to footpath closures would not be repeated," it says.
Instead of funeral pyres, the report advocates commercial incineration. Rendering or dumping in licensed commercial landfill sites are suggested as alternative methods of disposal.
"Vaccination should be considered as a separate strategy, but would not be an alternative to slaughter in the first instance," the report says.