The Sunday Post
20 January 2002
by Craig Robertson
BRITAIN is now free of foot and mouth, but the cost in terms of livestock is far greater than the Government has previously admitted.
Our investigation has revealed the number of animals slaughtered was nearly three times the figure released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The Department has now admitted they neglected to count MILLIONS of sheep and cattle.
DEFRA say four million animals were culled. However, the Meat and Livestock Commission has confirmed that nearly 11 million animals were slaughtered in the cull.
The Government's official figure records sheep and cattle killed on the 2030 farms which were struck by foot and mouth plus the 5000 neighbouring farms cleansed in precautionary culls.
However the number does not include beasts killed through the welfare, disposal scheme, the light lamb disposal plan or, crucially, those lambs - and calves - killed with their mothers.
Jane Connor, chief economist of the Meat and Livestock Commission, says that a conservative estimate of 1.2 offspring per breeding sheep culled would mean four million lambs were killed but not accounted for.
Lambs "at foot" of sheep marked for slaughter were also killed but the official tally would only record one animal. The same procedure operated for culled cattle.
Similarly, there were 595,000 cattle culled but the official figures don't include the 100,000 calves killed with them or the 50,000 calves close to birth.
The Welfare Disposal Scheme - set up to cull animals that could not be moved because of restrictions - accounted for another 1.6 million sheep and lambs, 169,000 cattle and 288,000 pigs. Another half million light lambs were culled because there was no longer a market for them. None of these is included in the Government's total.
Jane Connor says, "We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure."
A spokesman for DEFRA initially insisted the number of sheep and livestock culled included offspring killed with them However, after being told that MLC said otherwise, they checked their figures.
The press officer returned to admit, "I stand corrected on that one. It seems it is standard practice to count ewes and offspring as one animal. Your information is correct."
The final toll was at least 10,849,000 animals killed.