E.U. Will Ban Livestock Imports Following Foot-and-Mouth Outbreak

UK — The European Union will ban British livestock imports in response to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in southern England, a British Cabinet minister said Saturday.
calendar icon 4 August 2007
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Click for more on Foot and Mouth Disease - Photo courtesy Defra, Crown Copyright
The heel bulbs of a steer’s foot with ruptured 3-day-old vesicles.
"There will be a ban on exports within the European Union. That is automatically imposed as a result of the finding of foot and mouth disease," Cabinet Office Minister Ed Miliband told the British Broadcasting Corp.

In a statement, the European Commission — the executive of the 27-nation E.U. — said it would adopt an emergency decision Monday "concerning restrictions on the movement of animals and the dispatch of products from the U.K."

The highly infectious livestock disease was confirmed Friday on a cattle farm southwest of London.

Authorities imposed a two-mile radius protection zone and a surveillance zone of six miles around the farm and imposed a nationwide ban on moving all hooved animals, including pigs.

Miliband said Britain would "move as swiftly as possible to get any ban that is in place lifted."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Environment Secretary Hilary Benn cut short their holidays when they learned of the new outbreak and were due to hold a meeting of the government's crisis committee, COBRA, on Saturday.

Scientists were carrying out tests to determine the strain of the disease, and whether vaccination would be possible to halt its spread.

"The laboratory tests are already under way and the earliest possible information will probably come during the later part of today," said the country's chief veterinarian, Debby Reynolds.

She said investigations would try to determine whether the virus reached Britain through the illegal movement of animals, on the wind or by accidental contamination.

Reynolds, the chief vet, said it was too early to say how far the disease might spread.

She said that at a meeting late Friday, "we looked at the immediate response and we looked at how that would potentially emerge over coming days and weeks and we noted that both the latter aspects are extremely uncertain."

Tim Bonner, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, said farmers were extremely worried by the latest outbreak.

"Farmers around the country will be hoping and praying that this is an isolated incident and that the disease is not already widespread, because last time when we found out about it, it was already everywhere," he said. "We hope and pray that the lessons from last time have been learned."

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