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The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Some livestock are stranded in fields where their food is exhausted"
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The BBC's Jennie Bond
"The Queen Mother volunteered to walk over the pad"
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Chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore
"In the case of sheep, the laboratory process can take five days"
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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 19:56 GMT
Farmers urge faster culls
Cattle carcasses burn on a pyre
About 82,000 animals have been disposed of so far
Farmers leaders are urging the slaughter and disposal of animals affected by foot-and-mouth to be speeded up, as the number of new cases shows no signs of easing.

The National Farmers' Union says some of its members have waited for days before Ministry of Agriculture officials arrived to oversee the destruction of potentially infectious livestock.


These are sealed leak-proof lorries that are being used - if there was a risk we wouldn't be doing it

Maff
Confirmed cases were climbing again on Saturday, with the total reaching 139 by the evening.

The government's chief veterinary officer, Jim Scudamore, said the speed and scale of the infection had come as a shock.

'Rapid spread'

"It is a very rapid spread throughout the whole country," Mr Scudamore told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, noting that well over a 100 cases had now been confirmed in only a fortnight.

But he insisted the government had reacted as comprehensively as possible, adding that the licensing system which enabled some farmers to move animals for slaughter was operating "satisfactorily".
The Queen Mother walks over a disinfectant mat at Sandown Park races in Surrey
The Queen Mother walks over a disinfectant mat at Sandown racecourse

Junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman said a scheme for rendering rather than burning carcasses on farms was now operational, using a single plant in Cheshire.

But Maff dismissed fears that moving infected carcasses to the rendering plant could mean the contagious disease spreading to areas previously unaffected.

A spokesman said: "These are sealed leak-proof lorries that are being used - if there was a risk we wouldn't be doing it."

New cases were confirmed on Saturday at four farms in Cumbria, three in Scotland, two in Devon, two in Co Durham and one in Anglesey, bringng the day's total to 12.

Friday was the worst day yet in terms for confirmed outbreaks, with 20 new cases announced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The tally shattered hopes that the disease, which typically has a 14 day incubation period, would peak by Thursday.

It is now thought that the virus is being harboured by sheep, in which it is more difficult to spot than in cattle or pigs.

'Rogue farmers'

Many farms across Britain are still completely cut off, in an effort to stop the disease spreading even further.

But as the crisis continues, it is feared that "rogue farmers" are abusing a special licensing system which has been set up to allow the transport of healthy livestock under certain circumstances.

If there are rogue farmers, then they need to be taken in hand

Richard Haddock
NFU spokesman

There is concern about some farmers sending more animals to abattoirs than they should be, and of animals turning up at abattoirs where they were not expected.

Richard Haddock, the National Farmers' Union livestock representative for the south west, told BBC Radio 5Live: "If there are rogue farmers, then they need to be taken in hand".

His organisation has suggested that a foot-and-mouth tsar or enforcer should be brought in to tackle the mounting crisis.

Lambing threat

Meanwhile dozens of farmers are to apply for licences which will allow them to move animals short distances for welfare reasons.

They will be targeted especially at farmers anxious to bring in pregnant ewes from fields into birthing quarters, and cattle which need to be milked.

Sign on Dartmoor
Much of the countryside is out of bounds
Those licences would cover short movements only of either half a kilometre or five kilometres.

An estimated one in five ewes needs help during the lambing season, and there is also concern that the pastures on which they have been grazing are exhausted.

The Badminton Horse Trials, due to take place in May, is the latest event to be cancelled due to fears about the disease.

On Saturday, the Queen Mother was among thousands of racegoers at Sandown Park who walked across mats soaked with disinfectant to help prevent spreading the disease.

According to the latest Maff figures, the total number of animals facing slaughter is now 114,000, of which 82,000 have already been killed.

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See also:

10 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scotland's disease total climbs
07 Mar 01 | Europe
Hope as disease tests negative
08 Mar 01 | Other Sports
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