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Three-Month Foot and Mouth Milestone Approaches

The three-month milestone since the last case of foot and mouth in the UK
will be reached on Sunday - and a wave of relief will sweep across Britain's
farming community, says the NFU.

The last case of the disease - which ravaged the British countryside for
seven months - was recorded on 30 September in Cumbria.

It would be a mistake, however, to say that Britain will automatically be
declared "free" of foot and mouth on Sunday, said NFU President Ben Gill.
The 90-day threshold is considered to be the earliest possible date after
which the authorities could lift foot and mouth restrictions.

The four counties that remain classified as "at risk" - Cumbria, North
Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland - will need to be declared free. And,
even then, blood testing in badly hit areas will continue until the
Government is satisfied that the country is clear of the disease.

Then clearance by the EU and the OIE* - the international animal health
organisation - will also be needed.

But Mr Gill said: "To pass this three-month landmark will be a tremendous
morale boost to farmers up and down the country. It has been a long battle
with the disease but it looks very much like we have won.

"It brings a hope that we can start to move swiftly to regaining our
disease-free status and break free of the costly strait-jacket of disease

"We have endured a year of sheer hell. We must hope and pray that the New
Year will bring with it better times - next spring must see the birth of new
life on our farms, not the horror we witnessed this year."

There is a meeting of the OIE in mid-January and the NFU hopes the
Government will inform the meeting of the UK's success in beating the
disease with a view to ensuring that disease-free status can be granted as
soon as practically possible.


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