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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"MAFF is still urging the public not to make unnecessary journeys to the country"
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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The queston now is if its possible or even desirable to return to a less intensive form of agriculture"
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The BBC's Ian Pannell
"The premature lifting of the restrictions in the 60s meant that foot-and-mouth rapidly increased"
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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 23:49 GMT
'Respite' for farmers as disease spreads
Certain disease-free livestock can be slaughtered
The government has eased the ban on the movement of livestock to replenish the supply of British meat and help farmers hit hard by foot-and-mouth disease.

Ministers gave details of a scheme which could allow "substantial" movement of livestock from farms to abattoirs from Tuesday.

Farmers are to be granted licences to help ensure the transportation of animals is carried out without risk of infection.

But eight new cases of the disease were confirmed on Friday bringing the total number across the UK to 40.

Baroness Hayman said the licences for movement and slaughter would only be granted for "animals coming from farms not in infected areas and with a declaration that there is no sign of disease".

Many licensed animals would travel directly to abattoirs, which would also be licensed by the Meat Hygiene Service, for slaughter.

Others - but not pigs - would first travel to collection centres. Lorries carrying licensed animals would not be allowed to travel from farm to farm.

Baroness Hayman said the emphasis would be on "single, short, uninterrupted journeys" which would not bring animals into contact with each other.

She added: "The scheme will not run straight away but should be up and running early next week, possibly by Tuesday."

Agriculture minister Nick Brown said a "draft order" to legally implement the scheme had been drawn up and would be completed during Friday afternoon.

Licence applications for farmers and abattoirs will be made over the weekend.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the move would bring a "considerable amount of respite" for farmers.

Emergency measures
Horse racing suspended
Ireland v Wales rugby postponed
National parks closed
Access to Scottish Mountains suspended
Countryside Alliance march postponed
Reservoir sites in Wales closed to public
Marwell Zoo closed
Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Hampton Court Home Park remain closed for a further week

Chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore revealed the enormous scale of the government campaign to eradicate the disease, and admitted Maff were tracking 67,000 animals.

He added that the scheme to get some livestock moving again was workable as "great chunks" of the country had so far escaped the spread of the disease.

There are still another 68 premises under restrictions pending the outcome of tests.

Mr Scudamore said: "The requirements will mean animals will leave the farm and go direct to slaughter or collection centres.

"They will have to have a licence. The farmer will have to produce a declaration that he has inspected the animals and that they are free from foot-and-mouth."

He added that when the animals are moved from the farms, in disinfected trucks, further inspections will be made including checks by a vet.

BSE checks

Speaking to business leaders in Cardiff, the prime minister said it seemed all outbreaks so far could be traced back to one source.

"It is a desperate situation for many people," he said.

"I cannot speak highly enough about the way the farming community and the wider community have responded.

Mr Blair insisted the licensed slaughter scheme was "enormously important".

Blunts Farm in Wootton, Northamptonshire
The burning of carcasses continues
He said: "It will mean that at least some British meat is going back into the food chain and that's enormously important."

He added that the government was also working to get compensation into farmers' hands as soon as possible.

Trading standards officials revealed on Friday that a farmer from Cumbria is to be prosecuted for allegedly breaching special regulations introduced to curb foot-and-mouth by allegedly moving cattle.

Colin Hebson, of Chapel Farm in Cotehill, near Carlisle, will appear before the town's magistrates court on Monday accused of breaking the Foot and Mouth Declaratory (Controlled Area) Order 2001.

British farmers have already killed and burned an estimated 25,000 cattle, sheep and pigs and that figure is likely to rise to more than 37,000.

The National Farmers' Union fears the crisis could cost the industry up to 775m if the disease is not brought under control by May.

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See also:

02 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
NZ's foot and mouth 'witch-hunt'
02 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Cold spell link to foot-and-mouth
02 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Blair offers hope to farmers
02 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Cheltenham hopes rise
02 Mar 01 | Europe
France bans Irish livestock
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