Army's carcass dump blamed for latest outbreak

Army's carcass dump blamed for latest outbreak

July 28, 2001 The Times (London) by Dominic Kennedy

Blame for a devastating new outbreak of foot-and-mouth was being placed yesterday on a mass burial site for culled animals in a military firing range in Wales.

The cull of 4,000 sheep in the Brecon Beacons began last night after valuers agreed compensation for the doomed flocks. What farmers and local businessmen want to know, however, is how the disease reached the area so long after the Prime Minister said that the battle against foot-and-mouth was on the "home stretch". Sitting in the empty livestock market in Brecon, Chris Jones, the auctioneer, said: "We had our last sale on February 23 when restrictions came in. So why are we still faced with it?"

One theory is that the disease was brought in by lorry when carcasses of cattle and sheep were taken to the Epynt Mountains to be buried in a huge pit. The mountains rise from the northern border of the Brecon Beacons National Park and are used as an army shooting range, forbidden to outsiders for most of the past 50 years.

The Epynt burial site became a political issue in Wales when evidence emerged that the water supply was being polluted by the carcasses.

Mr Jones said: "They moved an awful lot of dead stock, which had been slaughtered, to this area to be disposed of. Locally, there was a huge uproar about it. Nationally, it was kept fairly quiet. People were not happy about dead stock coming into the area in lorries, which were shown to be leaking in the road."

The Welsh Assembly told local people in April that cattle or sheep brought to Epynt were not from infected flocks.

At first, the carcasses were buried in a pit reported to be 1,500ft long, 75ft wide and 12ft deep. Blood and body tissues were found to have contaminated a borehole, travelling 300ft downhill in only five days. According to local people, the carcasses were then dug up again and set alight. Lorries were arriving yesterday to collect the ashes from the funeral pyre to take them away from the mountain.

Another theory in the Beacons is that soldiers brought the disease back to their barracks after helping to tackle outbreaks elsewhere. Tourists are also being blamed because both outbreaks in the National Park, at Libanus and Llangenny, are close to mountains popular with walkers.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Assembly said that it was still investigating the cause of the outbreak. She defended the operation to dispose of animals in the Epynt Mountains.

The animals were from farms that did not have foot-and-mouth, she said. "The carcasses and the area were thoroughly disinfected before leaving the site. The vehicles were drenched in disinfectant. It was a mixture of disinfectant and water that was found to be leaking from the lorry."

Brian Powdrill, chairman of Brecon Beacons National Park, and Christopher Gledhill, the chief executive, have written to Rhodri Morgan, Welsh First Minister, calling for vaccinations to be considered for sheep in the Beacons.

Carwyn Jones, Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, has ruled out that option, however, saying: "If we started to vaccinate sheep, we would have to vaccinate all 11 million sheep in Wales."

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