Mass Slaughter Of
Healthy Sheep Begins
By Chris Starrs

The slaughter of the first batch of sheep to be culled under the government's new measures to curb the spread of foot-and-mouth disease has been completed.
Most farmers in Scotland are reluctantly complying with the draconian step, but some are threatening to oppose it.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said 1800 sheep on two farms in Aberdeenshire and Moray, which had contact with a market infected with foot-and-mouth, had been destroyed over the weekend.
They were culled as part of the planned mass slaughter of 200,000 healthy sheep on Scottish farms, most of them in Dumfries and Galloway.
An executive spokesman said arrangements for the slaughter of sheep at a number of other farms, including one in Renfrewshire, four in the Highlands, one in Ayrshire, and four in the Borders, which had contact with infected markets, were well under way.
He said planning was at an advanced stage for the slaughter of sheep within the three kilometre infected areas around 46 confirmed cases in Dumfries and Galloway.
He added: "This is a complex logistical exercise which must be planned properly and delivered efficiently, but we intend to start the slaughter of sheep within the infected zones as soon as possible this week.
"The executive fully recognises how distressing this is for all the farmers concerned. The reason it must be done is that the foot-and-mouth virus is difficult to detect in sheep, but spreads rapidly. In the cases which have developed since the start of the outbreak, we have seen the result of infection in sheep spreading the disease and infecting cattle.
"Slaughtering all these potentially-infected sheep is an essential measure for controlling and eventually stamping out the disease."
He added that the National Farmers' Union of Scotland was being kept closely involved in the discussions.
However, some sheep farmers are bitterly opposed to the slaughter of healthy animals. One Borders farmer said he was considering legal action to prevent the slaughter of his flock.
Colin Strang Steel has been told his 1000 sheep will have to be culled because he bought a ram at Longtown market in Cumbria, where an infected animal had passed through.
Mr Strang Steel, said, however, that he bought the animal more than a month ago, while the incubation period for the disease is only two weeks.
"Four separate inspections by vets had found no evidence of any symptoms.
"If there was going to be any infection it would surely have happened by now.
"If we were within the three kilometre radius of an infected farm I would be the first to put up my hands and say our animals must be slaughtered, but we are 40 miles from the nearest infection and we believe 100% that this flock is clear."
Frank Thorburn, of Irvington in Eastriggs, near Annan, said he would strongly resist a cull on his 180-acre farm if it was found to be within a three kilometre zone.
He said: "I think it probably will be and if it is I am going to resist any attempt to kill my animals if they do not have foot-and-mouth."
Meanwhile, the owner of a flock of Britain's oldest breeds of sheep said the outbreak of the disease in her area was like a ticking timebomb. Moira Linakre, a smallholder in Warwick Bridge, near Carlisle, Cumbria, has devoted the last five years to breeding and showing Ryelands sheep which were first recorded in Britain in 1837.

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