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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Government vets are saying that the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain is reaching its peak"
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The BBC's Christine McGourty
"There are no plans to clear any animals from Dartmoor"
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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 22:06 GMT
Seven new cases of foot-and-mouth
Selby Livestock Auction
Farmers hope to recoup some of their losses
Seven new cases of foot-and-mouth disease have been confirmed in the UK, as restrictions on the movement of some livestock is lifted.

Confirmation of the new cases comes as widespread measures are being adopted to prevent the foot-and-mouth outbreak spreading to the Continent.

All livestock markets have been banned in the EU and there has been a clampdown on cross-border animal movements in Europe.

The EU's veterinary panel also extended a ban on the export of meat, livestock and milk products from the UK, where the outbreak originated.

Two further cases of the disease were confirmed in Cumbria on Tuesday afternoon, following the discovery of two cases there earlier in the day.

Further outbreaks identified in County Durham and Devon means the number of confirmed cases has now risen to 81 across the UK, with a second suspected case under investigation on Dartmoor.

Meanwhile, a row has broken out between the National Farmers' Union and the horse racing industry over whether it is safe for the sport to re-start.

Farmers' leaders have appealed for the racecourses to be kept shut for a further week, but on Tuesday evening, with the backing of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Jockey Club said Wednesday's meeting at Lingfield in Surrey would go ahead.

Government vets say the foot and mouth outbreak should peak within the next few days before starting to decline.

Farmers desperate to move livestock free of the disease have been granted special licences to take their animals to abattoirs.

MAFF officials say 40,000 animals have now been slaughtered, but the final tally will be around 80,000.

The chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore has attacked speculation that the current policy of slaughtering thousands of farm animals had been unnecessary.

"Foot-and-mouth is not like flu, it is a serious disease which has long-term problems in dairy cattle and is a serious disease in sheep, lambs, cattle and pigs.

"Equally it is a serious welfare problem as the disease is extremely painful."

The latest outbreaks at Kirkandrews on Eden in Cumbria - one involving sheep and cattle, the other involving sheep - are close to an area in Cumbria already affected.

Rush for licences

Mr Scudamore said more time was needed to assess how the epidemic was progressing but it should be clear within about a week whether the ban on moving livestock, imposed on 23 February, had worked.

He said it would be at least 30 days without any new recorded cases before Britain could safely say it was free of the virus.

Farmers are desperate to get their livestock to market
Healthy animals have been stuck on farms losing value after the introduction of transport restrictions.

In Aberdeenshire alone 71 licences have been applied for.

But those living within six miles of an affected area cannot apply.

Checks are continuing to see if the disease has spread to free-ranging livestock on Dartmoor after an outbreak at a local farm.

Precautionary culls

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said it had ruled out a cull of the Dartmoor ponies.

In Northern Ireland, more sheep and cattle were slaughtered after a foot-and-mouth outbreak which was last week confirmed on a farm in South Armagh.

More precautionary slaughtering of livestock was also scheduled for the Irish Republic.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has refused to rule out government intervention on livestock prices, following speculation that farmers would fail to get a fair price for animals.

Mr Brown also said he hoped to get some financial relief to farmers by April.

But GMB union bosses fear that 60,000 farm workers would lose jobs unless normal trade was resumed soon.

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