It is feared that millions of free-roaming sheep could trigger a resurgence of Britains foot-and-mouth epidemic when they move down the hills for grazing this Autumn. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has claimed the danger is that many of the 9 million ewes that are allowed to run free may pass the disease on to sheep and cattle when upland farmers move them to lower pastures.
The epidemic of the virus that erupted last February has forced the destruction of nearly 3.6 million farm animals. Although apparently on the wane, the virus still has not been eradicated and has cost farmers and other rural interests billions of dollars. Controversy over the outbreak increased with the report in a leaked document that the government had ordered a clampdown on unacceptable spending to disinfect farms hit by the disease after experts suggested the bill could exceed $1.15 billion.
According to a government memorandum leaked to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered a spending crackdown on cleaning up after the disease after experts found that the average cost of disinfecting in England and Wales was running at nearly $150,000 per farm.
This item was taken from the Science News of United Press International (UPI).
23 July, 2001