PM chairs FMD meeting

Gordon Brown has met with farming industry leaders to discuss the issues surrounding the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

In a meeting with NFU president Peter Kendall and NFU director general Richard Macdonald this morning, the Prime Minister discussed animal movements, vaccination, animal welfare and the difficulties presented to livestock farmers during the outbreak.

It was agreed that the absolute priority was to get the disease under control and ensure its complete eradication.

Peter Kendall also expressed his very serious concerns about the "apparent breach of biosecurity" at Pirbright.

"The Prime Minister has reassured me of his absolute commitment to containing and eradicating this dreadful disease," said Kendall.

"He understands the importance of farming to the country, our food supplies, the environment and the economy and will do everything he can to help mitigate the long term effects that this situation could have on the livestock industry."

The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has spoken out about the outbreak. It has agreed that control of the disease must be the priority and urged the industry to work with the government to ensure this is possible.

"It is important that we move as soon as possible to a system that allows for animals to be moved to slaughter," said BMPA director Stuart Roberts.

"However, the key word must be sensible and we are fully behind the view that the first priority must be to stop the spread."

Roberts warned that if the ban on livestock movements continues for too long, processors could face serious financial repercussions.

"The impact of this disease will be significant on the meat industry and while this is a generalisation many members will be losing tens of thousands of pounds for every day they cannot source UK stock for slaughter," he said.

"Whilst different companies will have different levels of stocks a generalised view would be that if we are not able to slaughter livestock within a week it will become increasingly difficult to source British product."

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors are currently leading an investigation into the possibility that the outbreak originated at the Pirbright laboratory facilities.

They are expected to report their findings to the government tomorrow, 7 August.

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