HC Deb 15 November 1937 vol 329 cc16-8
25. Sir Percy Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture what further measures are being taken to avert foot-and-mouth disease, especially in view of the evidence which goes to show that the major sources of infection are the marrow bones of Argentine meat, the rind of Polish and other Eastern European bacon, and other raw animal products from countries infested with the disease?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

Following the discovery of lesions in a consignment of pig carcases from the Continent in 1926, an order was issued prohibiting the importation of all fresh meat from the Continent of Europe, and this order is still in operation. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that the present series of outbreaks is due to infection introduced by raw animal products, and the restricted area in which the numerous independent centres of infection have occurred suggests that articles of commerce are not the vehicles of infection in this case. It does not appear necessary, therefore, to take further measures in regard to the trade in raw animal products.

Sir P. Hurd

Do the Government not see that this disastrous outbreak is an incentive to redouble our efforts to feed our own people from our own soil?

Mr. Morrison

In regard to the present series of outbreaks—

Mr. Speaker

That is a separate question to the one on the Paper.

28. Mr. V. Adams

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether, in view of the wide and sudden incidence of foot-and-mouth disease, he can say whether the ailment is at present known to be susceptible of prevention and /or cure; and what money is being spent by his Department on scientific research into the causes, prevention, and cure of the disease?

32. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture what steps are being taken to encourage research in connection with foot-and-mouth disease, particularly with regard to the possibility of the discovery of a remedy which would avoid the necessity of slaughtering large numbers of cattle whenever an outbreak occurs?

Mr. Morrison

The disease is curable, though fatalities occur in the case of very young animals and exceptionally among adults. No innocuous method of producing prolonged immunity against the disease has been discovered. Referring to the temporary protection afforded by the use of immune serum, the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Committee reported recently that such serum as is at present available cannot he relied on to protect a bovine from infection when intimately exposed to a highly infective case of disease. The most effective method of preventing the spread of infection is the prompt slaughter of affected animals and those in immediate contact, so as to stop the manufacture of virus and to destroy existing virus by disinfection. It has been shown repeatedly abroad, and is being shown to-day in Western Europe, that alternative methods are not successful in preventing the widespread diffusion of disease. The research work in progress under the supervision of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Committee is at present costing between 000 and 17,000 a year. The present position is fully set out in the introduction to the Fifth Progress Report of the Committee which was published in May last by His Majesty's Stationery Office.

Mr. Adams

I am much obliged.

Mr. Levy

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some authorities think that the cause of this disease is contaminated water?

Mr. Morrison

There have been many suggestions from many authorities as to its cause, but, as I have informed the House, we think that the present outbreak was caused by migratory birds?

Mr. Leach

Will the Minister look with the gravest suspicion on any serum treatment?

Mr. Morrison

I do not know whether "suspicion" is the right word, but I should not like to recommend to the House any prophylactic against the disease of whose virtues I was not myself convinced.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Can my right hon. Friend say whether other countries carry out the wholesale slaughter of animals affected by this disease, and, if not, cannot we do something further in this matter?

Mr. Morrison

The practice in other countries varies. Some of them slaughter, and others, as I have said, adopt the alternative method of serum treatment, and events in the present outbreak show that that method has not been successful in preventing the disease from spreading.

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