HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc104-6W
66. Sir L. Ropner

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has considered the general use of vaccine for the immunisation of cattle against foot-and-mouth disease; and whether he will make a statement on the matter.

77. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Agriculture what progress in research to find a vaccine to prevent foot-and-mouth disease has been made.

79. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the concern caused by the loss of food resulting from the slaughter of animals affected or threatened by foot-and-mouth disease; and if he will confer with the leaders of the agricultural industry on the desirability of introducing a policy of immunising cattle against this disease.

Sir T. Dugdale

The principal drawbacks of an immunisation policy are that no known vaccine protects against all the types of the foot-and-mouth disease virus to which our livestock are exposed and that the protection against particular types is of relatively short duration. It would, therefore, be impracticable to keep all, or even most, of the susceptible animals in this country in a satisfactory state of immunity.

On the other hand, the immunisation of animals after an outbreak has occurred is not effective in preventing the spread of disease, because it takes two or three weeks after inoculation before an immunity is produced. Moreover, the presence of immunised animals amongst our livestock would tend to perpetuate the disease, since an immunised animal may become infected and while showing little or no sign of illness may be capable of passing on infection to other animals.

Consequently, an immunisation policy would lead to foot-and-mouth disease becoming established in this country and is incompatible with the policy of stamping out infection by slaughter which, I am satisfied, is the cheapest and most effective in the circumstances of this country and which has the support of the leaders of the agricultural industry.

Research into foot-and-mouth disease, including the use of vaccines, is given the fullest backing through the Agricultural Research Council and through my Department.

82. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will make a statement on the extent of the recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease; and if he will give an assurance that the spread of infection is now under control.

Sir T. Dugdale

During the winter and spring outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease have occurred in the eastern and south-eastern counties of England. Since 1st April, there have been 43 outbreaks in Cheshire and Staffordshire, and fresh centres of infection giving rise to a further 16 outbreaks have appeared in Suffolk, Essex, Hampshire, Sussex, Berkshire, Aberdeenshire and Angus. Except in Cheshire and Staffordshire, there has been very little spread of infection from the initial outbreaks. Although the position in Cheshire and Staffordshire is causing some anxiety, I am confident that the usual measures, which are being promptly and vigorously applied, will be successful in bringing the disease under control.