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The BBC's Jon Sopel in Brussels
"Even Edam cheese is being seen as dangerous contraband for those travelling into Germany"
 real 56k

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"The Dutch government has introduced a complete ban on the transportation of animals throughout the country"
 real 56k

Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 06:47 GMT
Dutch hit by livestock ban
Pre-emptive slaughter in the Netherlands 16 March 2001
The Dutch had taken tough steps to keep out infection
The European Union has banned livestock exports from the Netherlands following the confirmation of the country's first cases of foot-and-mouth disease.

A blanket ban has also been imposed on all untreated meat, and meat and dairy products, from the four Dutch provinces around the affected farms.

Foot-and-mouth was confirmed on Wednesday at three farms in the east of the Netherlands; more suspected cases are being investigated at a slaughterhouse in the south and at three farms in the east.

The Dutch authorities say 18,000 animals will be slaughtered in the next few days to try to contain the outbreak, and vets are to meet on Friday to consider a blanket vaccination programme.

Many politicians are in favour of such a scheme, but farmers' union representatives say this would not be in the long-term interests of the industry.

The Dutch authorities have also placed a three-day ban on feed and milk transportation across the entire country.

The Dutch Farmers' Union has set up an emergency centre with staff manning a special advice hotline in Deventer, just south of the farms hit by the outbreak.

'No contact'

The Netherlands is the second country in mainland Europe to be hit by foot-and-mouth following the discovery of a single case in France last week.

We hoped we had controlled it... Unfortunately we have not succeeded

Dutch Agriculture Ministry spokesman
The disease was first confirmed in cows and goats in the eastern towns of Olst in the province of Overijssel, and Oene, 5km (3 miles) away in neighbouring Gelderland. Confirmation of a third case at a farm in Welsum near Olst came later in the day.

Officials say they are mystified as to how the disease occurred.

The four cows at Olst are said to have had no contact with British or French animals, as no animals were brought in or out of the farm either this year or last.

Dutch Agriculture Ministry spokesman Gabor Oolthuis told BBC News Online: "It's very disappointing... You can never completely control foot-and-mouth.

"We hoped we had controlled it. Unfortunately we have not succeeded."

The Netherlands had imposed some of the strictest restrictions and slaughter policies in Europe when the disease first emerged in the UK last month - but had eased their bans at midnight on Sunday, confident the situation was under control.

In Britain the total number of cases so far confirmed has now risen to 435.

EU hopeful

Despite the gloomy news from the Netherlands, the EU is hopeful the infection will not spread any further.

"We regret the confirmation of the case but we are still confident the disease can be contained," said a spokeswoman, Beate Gminder.

Although the EU has not ruled out preventative vaccination, she said slaughter was still the most effective method of stopping the infection's spread.

The Dutch farms affected are only 50km from the border with Germany, which said it would check all Dutch animal and meat imports from the last four weeks.

In France, six farms remain under quarantine, but the authorities are hopeful they may now have the disease under control.

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