UK government blamed for foot and mouth outbreak

Foot and mouth outbreak scientists blame Defra

James Sturcke
Guardian Unlimited

 Police stand outside the Institute for Animal Health laboratory in Pirbright, Guildford, a suspected source of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the area. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/Press Association
The Institute for Animal Health laboratory in Pirbright, Guildford. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/Press Association

The government failed in its attempts to stop the spread of foot and mouth during the summer, leading to a second outbreak a month later, a report found today.Scientists at the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright, Surrey, said that culling and biosecurity measures following the discovery of the disease at a farm in nearby Normandy in August did not stamp out the virus.

The government department in charge of farming, Defra, was wrong to declare the UK disease-free, the scientists found, according to the BBC.

Official reports following the outbreak, which led to the culling of hundreds of healthy animals and an export ban on British livestock, found that the disease probably leaked from laboratories on the site in Pirbright that the IAH shares with a private vaccine manufacturer, Merial.

An outbreak the following month about 12 miles away near Virginia Water was not the result of a second leak from the laboratories, the IAH scientists said, but a re-emergence of the first outbreak that had remained undetected by authorities.

The IAH scientists today leaked their own report, which was completed in September, amid frustration that it had not been published by Defra, the BBC reported.

In August, the prime minister, Gordon Brown, broke off his summer holiday to take charge of the eradication effort.