WHILE Huntingdonshire s farmers and meat producers hold their breath in the hope that the foot-and-mouth outbreak can be contained in Surrey, the countryside remains open, the Government stressed this week. One butcher has urged the public to avoid panic-
WHILE Huntingdonshire's farmers and meat producers hold their breath in the hope that the foot-and-mouth outbreak can be contained in Surrey, the countryside remains open, the Government stressed this week.
One butcher has urged the public to avoid panic-buying, and farmers, though concerned, are not yet fearful of losing their livelihoods.
Kimbolton's family butcher H. Hellett & Sons would normally slaughter more than 100 animals on a Monday but has been unable to do so this week.
Restrictions on the movement of animals means the slaughterhouse attached to the shop will remain closed until at least Tuesday, August 28.
Butcher Malcolm Shaw said: "The organisation has been very good - we took phone calls from two or three bodies on Saturday and have spoken to Defra (the Department for Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs).
"We would advise our customers not to panic-buy produce, as we have refrigerated meat supplies that will hopefully last us through.
"We may also be able to buy in supplies should the need arise but, fingers crossed, the outbreak will be contained and the restrictions will be relaxed."
North Huntingdonshire farmers with livestock are starting to worry about a possible spread of the disease, their MP told The Hunts Post.
Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire and a member of the Commons environment, food and agriculture committee, broke into his holiday at the weekend to contact local farmers affected by the ban on livestock movements.
"This is a time of great worry for the local farming community," he said. "We must hope that the disease is properly curtailed and that it will not cause the havoc that we saw six years ago."
He said he was also concerned about the knock-on effect on other aspects of the rural economy, such as agricultural shows.
"People rely on the summer months for a large part of their income, and it's important we do not forget that there's a large impact."
But he said farmers in his constituency were "a lot more comforted" by the Government's hand-ling of the recent outbreak than they had been in 2001.
"People are encouraged that so far it's confined to the laboratory and a couple of farms in Surrey."
Defra insisted there was no reason for the public not to continue to use the countryside.
"We have learned the lessons of the experience of the 2001 outbreak and would not close down the countryside if it is not justified by the disease risk," the department said. "Current veterinary advice is that, outside a protection zone, the risk of rights of way users and other visitors to the countryside spreading disease is low. Access to the countryside and in particular to footpaths, may be restricted but only within the Protection Zones (areas around infected premises) if it is felt too risky to keep them open. Footpaths on the infected premises are closed."
At Hamerton Zoo Park, owner Andrew Swales said it was business as normal.
He said: "They [Defra] certainly seem a lot more switched on than last time [the 2001 outbreak] - as if they knew it was coming.
"Six years ago we had no communication for 13 weeks. This time we had a memo on the Monday after the Friday announcement.
"The movement ban is going to be a nuisance for farmers but it does not affect us at the zoo. The sun is shining - it is business as normal.