Date:   07/06/01 07:56:46 GMT Daylight Time

 A group of us visited the MAFF office in Llandrindod
Wells (Powys) on Wednesday, and were able to speak to
the head MAFF vet and a representative of the Welsh
Office at length. 


The vet said that a mass cull as
such was not planned BUT that it was expected that
during serological testing a large number of
sero-positive sheep would be found and that would
result in a cull of affected flocks.


He said that there were no plans for a contiguous cull resulting
from such findings.  What is of some concern to the
vets is that when the hefted flocks on the hills are
tested there may well be a number of sero-positive
results. This could of course result in a mass cull of
the hills.

  The vet we spoke to gave his opinion (personal and
off the record) that a cull of sero-positive sheep was
not necessary and could in fact be
counter-productive, as these sheep could, if left,
provide a nucleus of FMD resistant flocks


Unfortunately this is not possible if we wish to
regain our disease free status under EU rules.  He
maintained that vaccination should have been used from
the outset and thus avoided the slaughter of so many

   The vets are quite obviously unhappy about what is
happening. They are bound by the Official Secrets Act,
so are not able to say much, but I will say that this
vet was both helpful and sympathetic.


  Questioned about MAFF policies such as contiguous
culling and the slaughter of sheep whilst leaving the
cattle that had shared the same pasture, he quite
obviously felt that there was no logic in these.


He was also asked why sero-positive sheep (assumed to
have come into contact and recovered from FMD) had not
already passed the disease on to cattle on the same
holding but was unable to answer that.

   These blood tests are being carried out on ALL
flocks over the next few months.  What are being found
are historic antibodies, which is why they are


The accommodation is booked for vets
etc. because the tests will take months to complete.

   It is quite obvious that even if a mass cull is not
actually planned it is certainly expected, and I would
think that the same applies in all regions.


I do not think there will be a massive military style operation
immediately after the election, but as soon as results
start to come in from the tests the culling will


So far Pirbright is the only lab to handle
samples.  There are many other labs well able to take
on this work and so speed up the testing programme but
they are not used, although Porton Down is apparently
to be used shortly.