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Extract from BBC World at One

Interviewer: "For Cheale Meats in Essex, last night must have felt as if History was repeating itself. Five years ago, their abattoir near Brentwood was where that year's outbreak of foot and mouth disease was first detected.
Yesterday, during a routine inspection, a vet reported two suspected cases either of foot and mouth or a similar illness which can affect swine, to the Meat Inspection Service.
The initial test results have come back negative but the abattoir is still waiting for the All Clear.

Paul Cheale is one of the companies directors:

Paul Cheale: Every animal that comes into a slaughterhouse has to pass the inspection of a veterinary surgeon and on this particular occasion the veterinary surgeon saw two pigs which she had reason to have a query of, although our staff who obviously had an experience of foot and mouth because we've had it before, believe there was absolutely nothing wrong with them.
Her opinion differed and therefore she reported a possible case of foot and mouth"

Interviewer: And there have been reports of blisters on the pigs' snouts? Is that the sort of thing that she was concerned about?

Paul Cheale: Well. Yeah. And I mean, my staff reported no blisters, only what you'd have on a pig's snout that had been rooting.

Interviewer: Nonetheless, that report went in. What effect has that had on your business over the last 24 hours?

Paul Cheale: We think that, on what we consider on the flimsiest of evidence, our whole business has been disrupted totally - and once you set this hare running, it has ramifications for the industry right across Europe.

Interviewer: What is supposed to happen when a report of this kind is made?

Paul Cheale: The first reaction should have been to send a vet to the area from which the farm, the pigs came and examine the rest of the stock.
That could have been done within hours.

And if he'd arrived at the farm and looked at the stock and saw no incidence of foot and mouth then you can bet your bottom dollar that there is absolutely nothing there.

As far as I'm aware, this did not happen.

In the meantime, I've got hundreds of tons of meat on wheels, waiting to be delivered and uncertainty s to whether I can tell my customer if he's getting them or not.

I mean, some have cancelled because they're frightened there might be something in it. And this causes an enormous amount of damage to us and to the industry.

Interviewer: And what are those ramifications?

Paul Cheale: Well, it places into there... immediately in people's minds, the health of our stock in the UK> And it was so unnecessary."

Interviewer: Paul Cheale.
We were hoping to talk to the Chief Vet, Debbie Reynolds, to explain how the case had been handled, but we were told she was unavailable.