UK Foot-And-Mouth Reportedly 'Under Control'

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - Exactly two months after the first reported case of foot-and-mouth disease launched Britain into an outbreak that has shaken the country's farming and tourism industries, the chief government scientist says the situation is "fully under control."

And the army said Friday it had all but cleared a huge backlog of animals waiting to be slaughtered in the worst-hit districts. Soldiers and government officials have been killing around 35,000 animals a day and disposing of their carcasses in mass burial sites and pyres.

With the total number of confirmed cases standing at around 1,400 farms and other locations, Professor David King said he expected the number of new cases to halve every two weeks, and by the projected general election date in early June to be down to just one a day.

But some farmers think it's too soon to say the crisis is "under control." Until a week or so after the last confirmed case was cleared up, and the affected animals slaughtered, National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said, he would not feel at ease.

The government believes killing affected animals as well as those on farms adjacent to infected properties is the best way to beat the disease.

But Prof. King said that in addition to the mass slaughter campaign underway it would still be necessary to vaccinate cattle in some areas.

A minority of farmers are strongly opposed to vaccination, concerned it may affect future meat and milk exports. Food industry representatives added to those fears by expressing doubt that meat from inoculated animals should enter the food chain.

The government this week has been hosting a group of international tourism executives, in the hope of persuading wary foreign visitors to return to Britain.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow