10 million animals were slaughtered in foot and mouth cull

January 23, 2002 The Daily Telegraph(London) by Robert Uhlig
THE number of animals slaughtered in the foot and mouth outbreak could be as high as 10 million - more than twice as high as official Government figures.

On the day that Britain was officially declared free of the disease by the world animal health organisation, so opening the way for exports to resume, the Meat and Livestock Commission said that more than six million beasts had not been included in the official slaughter toll.

The Government said that 4,068,000 animals were culled between the first case on Feb 20 and the 2,030th and last case detected on Sept 30. But the commission says that the true total is 10,849,000. The official figures do not include two million animals slaughtered for welfare reasons such as dwindling feed and space. The National Farmers' Union included these in its estimates.

But according to Jane Connor, economic forecaster at the Meat and Livestock Commission, many more animals were overlooked because they were either killed with their mothers - and counted as only one animal - or because they were killed after foot and mouth had closed the market for them, in which case they were not counted at all.

"We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure," Mrs Connor said.

According to her calculations, at least 1.2 lambs "at foot" were killed with each breeding sheep - amounting to four million lambs slaughtered but not counted.

And the official toll of 595,000 cattle did not include 100,000 calves and 50,000 calves close to birth that were killed with them, the commission said. About 500,000 lambs were killed in the light lamb disposal plan because they were considered unsellable.

Last night, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the commission's figures as accurate but concentrated on the resumption of exports.

Lord Whitty, the food and farming minister, said: "This is a very encouraging step but we must not lower our guard; there is a great deal of work still to do."

Exports had resumed within minutes of the International Epizootic Office in Paris giving its approval, which had not been expected until May.

Ben Gill, president of the NFU, said: "It's great news that this has happened so quickly and is a testament to everyone who has worked hard to achieve this, including Government, vets and scientists."

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