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The BBC's Sarah Lockett
"Cattle graze across Dartmoor so the risk of the disease spreading is high"
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The BBC's environment correspondent Robert Pigott
"Farmers in areas free of foot-and-mouth are applying for special movement licences"
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The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Some smaller butchers are already running short"
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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 15:29 GMT
Foot-and-mouth crisis intensifies

Infected cattle are burnt on a Scottish farm
The foot-and-mouth outbreak is continuing to spread across the UK with the number of confirmed cases rising to 60.

Ministry of Agriculture officials confirmed five new cases of the disease on Sunday, at three sites in Devon, one in Cornwall, three in Tyne and Wear and one in Scotland.

The cases follow confirmation of 11 fresh cases on Saturday in Cumbria, Lancashire, Oxfordshire, Durham, Herefordshire, Tyne and Wear, Cornwall and at a farm in Canonbie, Dumfries and Galloway.

There are now 59 cases in England, Scotland and Wales and a single case in Northern Ireland.

Vehicles from Britain disinfected as a precaution
Vehicles from Britain are disinfected as a precaution
Belgium and France have also reported suspected cases of foot and mouth.

If confirmed, they will be the first cases of the disease on mainland Europe since the first British outbreak more than a week ago.

Initial tests for the disease in both countries have proved negative, though conclusive results will not be known for some days.

About 53,000 animals have now been slaughtered as a result of the disease, including 6,300 animals which may have come into dangerous contact with infected animals.

Full details of the latest outbreaks are expected later on Sunday.

Compensation for farmers

Minister of Agriculture Nick Brown said farmers would soon get 156m from the European Union to compensate for currency movements, after he and EU Agriculture Minister Franz Fischler agreed to speed up payments.

At some stage something illegal must have happened

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said the speed with which this decision had been made recognised "the current difficulties" facing farmers.

Payments to sheep farmers will start this month, while beef farmers will receive payments in April and May, and those with dairy herds will receive a first instalment in April and then another in May.

Under normal circumstances the payments would have been made more than six months from now.

Licence rush

A flood of applications is expected from farmers wanting to take advantage of the restricted movement licensing scheme to transport animals to an abattoir.

Some local authorities are also working throughout the weekend to prepare the scheme, which could see the movement of animals by Tuesday.

Mr Brown said: "I would have thought that people would have got their plans sorted out by Monday and the applications would have been received by then or earlier and we would have got products moving by Tuesday or earlier."

He said there would be little risk of these animals spreading the disease during transportation, with stringent checks to ensure no contact with infected animals.

But he added: "I'm very conscious that in 1967, in that outbreak they believed they had it under control, relaxed controls and then it broke out again. That is a mistake we cannot afford to make."

Since the beginning of March 260 premises have been searched in connection with suspected tracings of the disease. Some 131 have been cleared.

Prices for meat rising Smithfield market
Prices for meat rising at Smithfield market
Mr Brown said 8m was being transferred from his department to the Meat Hygiene Service to underpin the veterinary costs of inspecting smaller abattoirs but he insisted there would be no relaxation of the inspection regime.

Vets, including experts in the study of epidemics and the rate of spread, are travelling to England to help inspect animals, he added.

Commenting on the possible source of the outbreak, he said: "At some stage something illegal must have happened. It is not legal to bring infected material into this country either knowingly or unknowingly.

"It's not for me to interpret the probabilities of this country's cause but I cannot see how this could have been legally done."

Mr Brown said he would be briefing MPs and regional representatives of the NFU on a daily basis so they were in a position to answer questions from concerned constituents and NFU members respectively.

He said he would answer a general question relating to foot-and-mouth at Agriculture Questions in Parliament on Thursday, when there would be an opportunity for proper debate on the matter.

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See also:

04 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scottish livestock movements start
03 Mar 01 | UK
Meat prices set to rise
02 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Cold spell link to foot-and-mouth
02 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Blair offers hope to farmers
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