How annoying that farm virus will not obey rulesTHE foot and mouth epidemic is over, as we all know, because Mr Blair told us so. So when 16 new cases appeared in Northumberland last week, several outside the Government's new "blue box" restriction zone, it was appropriate for the local National Farmer's Union to say that these had "breached the boundaries set by the Government". How tiresome of the disease to ignore regulations in this way.
In reality, as independent scientists suggest, this constant reappearance of foot and mouth, in south Wales, north Yorkshire, Somerset, Cheshire, Cumbria and now Northumberland, means that it is now in effect endemic. This puts paid to any notion that the European Commission will let Britain revert to its "disease-free export status", possibly even for years to come.
Had Britain gone for mass vaccination last spring, stopping the epidemic in its tracks in weeks, the UK could, under international rules, have had export status back by next April.One condition informally laid down by the Commission for recovery of export status is that the disease must not be in Britain's wild deer population. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that it has been in deer for months, the official line of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as they were suspiciously quick to point out when I asked them last week, is that they "do not consider deer to be a risk". There has therefore been no need for them to test the deer population. Thus, hardly surprisingly, there is "no evidence" that deer have been infected. As one might say, knowing how sensitive the Commission is on this point, deer have not "breached the b>oundaries set by the Government"; unlike, alas, those 16 new outbreaks in Northumberland, where there are even more deer than there are Defra officials... Sunday Telegraph Sept 2