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Programme highlights Monday, 26 February, 2001, 15:15 GMT
European farmers fear spread of foot-and-mouth
Maff cordon of farm premises
Farmers across the country face restrictions
Just after one o' clock this afternoon, the tenth case of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed.

The latest outbreak is at Westerhope in Tyne and Wear, not far from what's believed to have been the source of the infection at Heddon-on-the-Wall.

The official view is that the virus may have been carried to Westerhope in the air.

That simple fact helps to explain why the chances of confining the disease within small exclusion-zones is fading by the hour. The outbreaks now cover the West Country, East Anglia and the North-East of England.
Measure to stop disease
Animal carcases incinerated

If suspicions of a further outbreak are confirmed in North Wales, the country will be well and truly quartered.

Wiltshire case

The other new cases today came from a farm at Hatherleigh in Devon, and an abattoir at Bromham in West Wiltshire. Both have connections with an earlier outbreak at Highampton in Devon.

Instead of a lifting of restrictions from this Thursday - March 1st - as the Farmers' Union had hoped, the industry may be in for a long, painful haul.

Ian Johnson, from the NFU's South-West Region, said they were looking into the abyss.

And Britain's foot and mouth disease is a matter of deep concern well beyond these shores. The agriculture minister Nick Brown is travelling to Brussels later today to brief his European counterparts.

Further action

Even though exports have already been banned, David Byrne, the EU Consumer Health Commissioner, says Europe is poised to take further strong action if necessary.

One German state - North-Rhine Westphalia - has not been ready to wait: work has started on slaughtering animals known to have been imported from Britain - this despite the fact that no signs of the disease have yet been found on the Continent.

European farmers' unions are due to meet on Friday to discuss what to do. Roger Saenen, from the Belgian Farmers Union, told the World at One that he and his colleagues were 'trembling with fear'.

Markets close

In Belgium, markets have been closed, movement of animals is already tightly controlled, and the whereabouts of English imports have been established - so that they can be slaughtered immediately if the need arises.

One side-effect of the crisis came with the postponement of next month's rally by the Countryside Alliance.

The demonstrations were supposed to bring hundreds of thousands of people to London on March 18th, but will not now take place until after the expected election date in May.

Richard Burge, the Alliance's Chief executive, said that - at such a time - his members needed to be on their farms and at home, not tramping around London.

Delayed rally

He denied that delaying the rally until after the election would rob the event of its political potency, and he warned the Government not to think that the pressure had gone away:

"It has to realise that this is not the only crisis in the countryside, but I'm afraid that this is going to be a very deep and lasting one."

The effect of hundreds of thousands of people coming into London would be "massive" whenever the march was held.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
David Head, emergency planning officer for Wiltshire County Council
Audio
Ian Johnson, South West representative of the National Farmers Union
Audio
Richard Burge, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance
Audio
Roger Saenen of the Belgian farmer's union
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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