Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 11:33 UK

Farmers block Mont Blanc tunnel

Mont Blanc tunnel entrance (file picture)
The Mont Blanc tunnel is a major transport route to Italy

Several hundred French farmers have blocked the Mont Blanc tunnel in south-eastern France in a protest over compensation for bluetongue disease.

Some 300 farmers and 100 trucks have been taking part in the demonstration.

Bluetongue affects all ruminants, such as cattle, goats, deer and sheep, although symptoms are generally most severe in sheep.

The virus does not affect humans, but in animals it causes high fevers and swelling of the head and neck.

Bluetongue "stopped us from working in 2007 and we want compensation," said Christian Berthet, head of the FFCB livestock farming union for the south-eastern Rhone-Alpes region.

"That was done in 2006, but nothing is foreseen for 2007 and we feel forgotten," he said.

Some 11,000 cases were registered in France at the end of 2007 and new cases have recently been reported.

The FFCB says the compensation package for 2007 is the same amount as in 2006, when the disease affected 16 departments, yet it spread to the rest of the country later on.

The French government on Monday said it was releasing 6m euros (4.8m) in aid for farmers whose herds have been hit.

The FFCB picked the Mont Blanc tunnel to stage its protest because it leads to Italy, one of the main markets for French veal. Italy closed its border in March as French calves had not been vaccinated against bluetongue.

Q&A: Bluetongue disease
22 Feb 08 |  UK

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