Pirbright takes centre stage again

The British farming industry is in turmoil again today after Defra announced the most recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease appears to be linked to the Pirbright laboratory in Surrey.

Preliminary tests have shown the virus is the same strain as that which led to the slaughter of hundreds of livestock last month.

Farmers across the country were tentatively exhaling last week after the government announced Britain was foot and mouth free.

As the shock of the new outbreak sets in, the government has denied accusations it lifted the restrictions too quickly.

A 10 km surveillance zone has been placed around two infected farms in Egham and nearby livestock are being culled as a precautionary measure to prevent further spreading.

The government’s chief veterinary officer Debbie Reynolds said 300 animals had been killed, bringing the overall total since the beginning of August to over 500.

Footpaths adjacent to the two infected farms have now been closed, and a ban on all livestock movements in the UK has been imposed.

The president of the National Farmers’ Union Peter Kendall expressed a “real state of despair” amongst his members at this critical intersection in the farming calendar.

Mr Kendall said this latest outbreak was “much worse” than last month’s because it comes as farmers are meant to be harvesting their livestock. Trading markets today were said to be completely deserted.

Scientists believe the animals in Egham became infected during the past week, but they are still trying to ascertain whether this is an isolated incident or whether widespread immunisations are necessary.