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The BBC's Caroline Thomsett
"The disease could have been present here for 4 weeks"
 real 56k

The BBC's Tom Heap
"There is some concern shops could run low on meat"
 real 28k

Maff's chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore
"People should only go onto farms if is essential"
 real 28k

The BBC's Judith Maloney
"They've described what will happen as a giant barbecue"
 real 56k

The Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
"It is essential we get on top of ... the outbreak"
 real 28k

Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 09:30 GMT
Livestock crisis sparks food fears
Maff oficials with farmer Bobby Waugh
Maff officials at the suspected source of the outbreak
Britain's livestock industry has come to a complete standstill after the government banned the transport of all animals that could carry foot-and-mouth disease.

The seven-day ban came into force at 1700 GMT on Friday and all livestock markets and abattoirs in England and Wales have been shut.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has admitted supplies of meat will be disrupted, but has warned shoppers not to start panic buying.

On Saturday experts will continue to probe the source of the outbreak, while government officials are expected to destroy the carcasses of hundreds of slaughtered animals.

Click here to see map of confirmed cases.

The ban on moving cattle, pigs, sheep and goats was announced as growing evidence emerged that the potent virus was spreading through the British countryside.

Large parts of the countryside are out of bounds to the public this weekend, several tourist attractions have imposed restrictions on visitors and one racecourse has called off a meeting.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) officials now say the highly contagious virus may have been spreading from a pig farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall, in Northumberland, for more than two weeks.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Nick Brown: It is important that we don't spread the disease

But farm owner Bobby Waugh, 55, says his farm, which currently has 500 pigs, has been given a clean bill of health by Maff inspectors on two recent visits.

A Maff spokeswoman said the farm was visited on 22 December following a complaint about animal welfare.

She confirmed the visit produced no grounds for welfare-related prosecution and the pigs were "fit and healthy", but advice was issued to the farmer about upkeep and conditions.

She said there was a follow-up visit, by the State Veterinary Service and trading standards, on 24 January, when conditions were found to have improved.

A sixth case pf foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in north-east England and about 300 farms from Aberdeenshire to the Isle of Wight are being investigated.

Questions are being asked as to why it has taken so long to detect the virus, as it emerged the disease may have entered Britain as long as a month ago.

Activities curbed
Monday's race meeting at Newcastle is cancelled
RSPB reserves closed
Fox and deer hunting and hare coursing banned
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and Woburn Safari Park are temporarily closed
Half of all city farms shut
Visitors to London Zoo are being asked to walk across disinfected matting
Maff's chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore, told Radio 4's Today programme that the current rules governing the import of meat and disease control would have to be fully reviewed.

But he added that until the source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak was pinpointed it was difficult to know whether the measures were strong enough.

National Farmers Union president Ben Gill said the UK should look at shortening the meat supply chain and maximising production within the country, instead of relying in the cheapest produce from around the world.

He told Today he could not help but speculate that the freeing up of world trade was in some way linked with the outbreak of foot-and-mouth now and swine fever a few months ago, both of which are exotic diseases.

"This is a disaster not only for the farmer but for the countryside and the country as a whole," he said.

Panic buying

Supermarkets have reported that sales of meat have increased and there are fears of panic buying.

The Meat & Livestock Commission has said it could not guarantee there would not be problems if the ban was extended.

The disease was first spotted at an abattoir in Essex on Tuesday and a cluster of cases have been confirmed nearby.

There are now exclusion zones around four sites in Essex, the Heddon-on-the-Wall farm and four miles away at a cattle farm in Ponteland - the sixth location to have a case of the disease confirmed.

The European Commission has warned it would have no hesitation in extending the ban on Britain's 8m-a-week exports of live animals, meat and dairy products beyond the current 1 March deadline if the disease has not been totally eradicated.

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