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The BBC's Tom Heap
"We may now be exporting a new threat to animal health"
 real 56k

Ian Johnson, National Farmers Union
"It's a nightmare situation"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 February, 2001, 09:02 GMT
Fires burn but disease spreads
Foot-and-mouth burning underway
Over 800 culled pigs were burnt in Northumberland
Fires have been burning through the night as the government disposes of hundreds of slaughtered animals from farms affected by foot-and-mouth disease.

But as another suspected outbreak is reported in north Wales, there are fears the disease may have spread to Europe through sheep exported from a farm in Devon.


All the signs are that we are getting an outbreak every day

Farmer Gordon Meek

There are reports that the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has started destroying animals imported from Britain as a precaution against foot-and-mouth disease.

At the suspected source of the outbreak in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, a wall of flame lit the night sky as more than 800 slaughtered pig carcasses were burned.

On Sunday a seventh case was confirmed 400 miles away at a large sheep and cattle farm in Highampton, north Devon.

In north Wales tests were being carried out on a sheep with symptoms at an abattoir at Gaerwen, Anglesey.

Fears over Europe

The Devon outbreak came as a blow to hopes that the disease had been contained by mass slaughter and a seven-day ban on livestock movement.

Farmers' leaders described it as the "worst-case scenario".

The farm in Devon exports sheep to continental Europe, sparking fears the disease could now be present in other EU countries.

Click here to see map of confirmed cases.

Northumberland cattle and sheep farmer Gordon Meek said farmers throughout the UK were living on a knife-edge.

"We are in danger of a major catastrophe in the livestock industry within the next few days" he told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme.

"There are a lot of us around the Ponteland area thinking we are going to be livestock farmers without livestock by the end of the week."

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Nick Brown: Meeting with EU ministers
Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods and Express Dairies, said the outlook was not as bleak for his industry.

"We have food in the pipeline and we can access high quality food quickly from the rest of Europe," he said.

"Farmers will understand that we have to keep the pork and beef market going. As soon as we can we will return to British suppliers."

He said he did not expect consumers to be hit by price rises in the short term.

"If it goes on for several weeks, prices will go up."

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is expected to make a statement to the House of Commons about the outbreak on Monday before flying to Brussels to brief other EU agriculture ministers.


This isn't an ordinary farm, it is a cattle and sheep dealer, someone who has dealings with scores of other farms

Anthony Gibson
The huge funeral pyres lit on Sunday night are expected to burn for up to 24 hours.

The pigs at Burnside Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall had been doused in oil and diesel and placed on railway sleepers, where straw and coal was then ignited.

Culls have also been taking place at five other farms in Northumberland and Essex where the disease was confirmed and at a further two "contact" sites.

More than 2,000 pigs, sheep and cattle have so far been culled nationwide as the disease tightens its grip on the farming industry.

Exclusion zone

Earlier, a 10-mile exclusion zone was set up around the farm in north Devon.

The farm has 600 cattle and 1,500 sheep and the farmer runs 13 premises, 11 in Devon and two in Cornwall, all of which will be inspected.

Richmond Park
Richmond Park in London has been closed to protect deer
Vehicles from the farm have travelled widely throughout Britain, particularly in Cumbria, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (Maff) officials said.

The disease was only confirmed among the farm's 600-strong cattle herd and vets are examining the 1,500 sheep for signs of infection.

Investigators are also carrying out tests on another suspected outbreak at a nearby farm.

'Spread far and wide'

Anthony Gibson, from the south-west branch of the National Farmers Union (NFU), told the BBC the implications of the outbreak were disastrous for farmers.

Activities curbed
Monday's race meeting at Newcastle is cancelled
Camping and Caravaning Club cancels meets
RSPB reserves closed
Fox and deer hunting and hare coursing banned
Whipsnade Wild Animal Park and Woburn Safari Park closed
City farms shut
Visitors to London Zoo are being asked to walk across disinfected matting
Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park closed from midnight on Sunday
"If you were to write the worst-case scenario for foot-and-mouth disease, this would be it."

NFU president Ben Gill will meet Mr Brown on Monday to discuss the spread of the virus.

While he supported the ban on livestock movement, Mr Gill said something must be done to limit farmers' financial losses.

Royal parks shut

The outbreaks have forced scores of organisations to cancel meetings and sporting events for fear of spreading the disease.

Hunting has been suspended, several zoos closed their doors and three Royal parks in London - Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Park - were shut to the general public from midnight on Sunday to protect deer herds.

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