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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"People were starting to think things were improving, but once again foot-and-mouth shows it cannot be predicted"
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The BBC's Jane O'Brien:
Latest update on the situation on Dartmoor
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Wednesday, 7 March, 2001, 19:22 GMT
Disease spreads to more counties
Man in protective clothing spraying car
Cars arriving Lingfield Park were disinfected
Foot-and-mouth disease spread to four previously unaffected counties on Wednesday as fresh supplies of British meat started to reach shops.

New cases were confirmed among sheep and cattle in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Berkshire, denting hopes that the virus spread was slowing.

Eleven other outbreaks were also detected in Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, Devon, Worcestershire and Co Durham - bringing the total number of UK cases to 96.

The new cases come 12 days after the government first banned the movement of animals.

Farmers are desperate to get their livestock to market
Agriculture minister Baroness Hayman had earlier warned that although two weeks was the accepted incubation period for the virus, there could still be more cases.

As the total number of cases rose, shops were taking delivery of fresh meat supplies, following provisions to allow farmers to move to abattoirs livestock unaffected by foot-and-mouth disease.

Most restrictions on animal movement remain in place, although horse racing resumed with a meeting at Lingfield Park, Surrey, on Wednesday.

Rugby postponed

The move came despite a plea by the National Farmers' Union for racing events to be postponed for another seven days.

Ireland has postponed its forthcoming Six Nations Rugby matches against England and Scotland because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Any illegal movement is to be deplored and has the potential to spread disease

Richard Cawthorne, deputy chief veterinary officer
The Irish Rugby Football Union made the announcement on Wednesday after taking advice from the Irish Department of Agriculture.

Ireland have already cancelled one game with Wales, which should have been played in Cardiff last Saturday, and will now take place at the end of April.

As British meat starts to reappear in the shops, there are allegations that it is more expensive, despite a fall in the price paid to farmers for their animals.

The slaughtering of livestock on Dartmoor was stepped up on Wednesday, following confirmation of the disease at Dunna Bridge Farm at Two Bridges.

Markets ban

A total of 800 sheep and 170 beef cattle at the farm had already been slaughtered.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said livestock on moorland around the farm would also have to be slaughtered in an attempt to contain the outbreak and prevent it spreading to Dartmoor's wildlife.

Ewe and lamb
Sheep farmers concerned as lambing season gets underway
Also on Wednesday, doubts were cast on the government's plans to extend its licensing scheme allowing the movement and slaughter of unaffected animals.

So far, the scheme has mostly involved the movement of larger consignments to about 200 approved slaughterhouses.

It had been proposed that holding centres, most of them markets, could handle animals from small-scale farms.

But Baroness Hayman said the plans could be affected by a Europe-wide ban on animal markets.

The European Union has banned livestock markets for "at least a week" to try to contain an outbreak of the disease.

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.

Baroness Hayman said there were fears that Britain's neighbours may complain that the proposal to extend the licensing scheme would amount to setting up market-style sites where animals from different locations were mixed together.

Risk to ewes

Deputy chief veterinary officer Richard Cawthorne, who attended a veterinary committee meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, said Europe was satisfied that Britain had so far taken adequate steps in the attempt to wipe out foot-and-mouth.

He hoped that the number of outbreaks in Britain would peak this week following measures taken to contain the disease.

But he said he was concerned by reports of illegal movements of livestock which could jeopardise these efforts.

"Any illegal movement is to be deplored and has the potential to spread disease," he said.

Farmers' leaders are now appealing to the government to relax rules on animal movement so pregnant ewes can be moved to suitable lambing sites.

Sheep farmers say there is a risk of ewes and their lambs dying unless they can be moved to safety.

The danger in moving them is that this runs the risk of other flocks being cross-infected.

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06 Mar 01 | Six Nations
Ireland postpones Six Nations ties
07 Mar 01 | Europe
Hope as disease tests negative
05 Mar 01 | Other Sports
French runners set to miss Cheltenham
07 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Racing returns to mixed reaction
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