WASHINGTON (DTN)--Britain published plans Oct. 31 to deal with livestock epidemics like foot-and-mouth more effectively by slaughtering animals faster and only fully compensating farmers if they had not contributed to its spread, Reuters reported.

A statement from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Animal Health bill will give the government new powers to slaughter any animal where it is deemed necessary.

Some veterinarians say the government moved too slowly to slaughter and then destroy potentially infected livestock after the disease struck Britain in February, moving on to devastate large chunks of the countryside and farming community.

Millions of animals were eventually culled to contain it.

"This disease has involved huge expense, disruption and distress. We must not be prevented from taking effective action to stamp out the disease because we lack a key power," agriculture minister Elliot Morley said.

"The foot and mouth provisions of this bill ensure that we will not be left in this position."

The new powers do not prevent other approaches being taken, including vaccination. They will also allow vaccinated animals to be culled and compensation for them to be paid.

But it will change the compensation scheme offered to farmers.

Three-quarters of the value of the animals before they became infected will be payable. The remaining 25% will depend on whether the farmer "has acted in ways which risk spreading the disease", the department said.

"We want to send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate poor biosecurity," Morley said.

The bill, which will be presented to parliament and is sure to be passed into law given the Labour government's towering majority, will also apply to other diseases.

On scrapie, it will include powers to require all sheep to be "genotyped" and those found not to have resistance to scrapie to be slaughtered, castrated or sterilized.

Scrapie, found in sheep, is similar to mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy--BSE). Both belong to the TSE or transmissible spongiform encephalopathy class of neurological diseases.

Scrapie is believed to pose no threat to human health but BSE's human equivalent, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), has claimed around 100 lives.

The government was embarrassed earlier this month when it became clear that a key study to see if sheep could get BSE was botched because cow brains were mistaken for those of sheep.

"There remains an acknowledged theoretical risk that BSE could be found in sheep. It is therefore important that we have sufficient powers to minimize any possible risk by breeding in resistance to TSEs as quickly as possible," Morley said.

Morley also said that even though there had been no new cases of foot-and- mouth for a month, there was the chance of more springing up as livestock is moved during the autumn.

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