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The BBC's environment correspondent Tim Hirsch
"Farmers are terrifed they will be hit next"
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The BBC's Jackie Rowley
Reports from a farm in North Kent, the first case of foot-and-mouth in the area
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Mary Lynch, English Tourism Council
"I think the public are wanting to do the right thing"
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Sunday, 11 March, 2001, 15:33 GMT
Farm disease 'under control'
funeral pyres
Pyres cannot cope with number of destroyed livestock
The government has denied it is being overwhelmed by the foot-and-mouth crisis, as it speeds up efforts to destroy burnt carcasses.

As the number of confirmed outbreaks in the UK rose to 157, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost he was "absolutely certain" the devastating outbreak was under control.

We do have it under control and we are eliminating it

Nick Brown
He said all cases, apart from one of the very latest ones on which work was still being done, had been traced back to the original outbreak.

But Ian Gardiner of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said farmers were still facing an horrific situation and he expected "more bad news to come".

Rendering plants

The government has been accused by farmers of not acting quickly enough, but Mr Brown denied it had mishandled the crisis and said it would increase the use of rendering plants, rather than funeral pyres, to dispose of slaughtered animal carcasses.

"The number is higher than anybody would have wanted and we are looking at a range of routes for disposal," he said.

Mr Brown dismissed fears that the lorries bringing slaughtered carcasses to a large rendering plant in Widnes, Cheshire, could spread the disease to areas currently uninfected.

Dunnabridge Farm near Dartmeet on Dartmoor
A familiar sign on country roads
"We already have a contract with the rendering plant in Widnes as part of our over-30 months scheme to combat BSE.

"We have renegotiated the contract and are taking animals killed as a result of foot-and-mouth disease in sealed containers."

The NFU says some of its members have waited for days before Maff officials arrived to oversee the destruction of potentially infectious livestock.

Mr Gardiner told BBC News 24 that the fear among farmers was "tremendous" and that they "were desperate for information" about the course of the disease.

"It's deeply stressful for farmers, it's their life's work and it can be gone just like that," he said.

Mass slaughter

Deputy chief veterinary officer Martin Atkinson said the capacity of the Widnes rendering plant was about 10,000 cattle a week, or 30,000 sheep a week, enough to clear any backlog.

It's deeply distressing for famrers

Ian Gardiner, NFU

The 18 new cases confirmed on Saturday include farms in Worcestershire, Cumbria, Devon, Powys, and a first outbreak in Kent.

The total number of animals facing slaughter is now 127,000, of which 90,000 have already been killed. Since the start of the outbreak, 867 farms have been placed under restrictions for animal movement.

On Saturday Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore expressed shock at the scale of the foot-and-mouth problem.

He said the "very rapid spread" of the disease had taken experts by surprise.

Toll on humans

The effect of the crisis on people has been highlighted by the Farmers in Crisis Network group.

Dartmoor National Park near Two Bridges
A deserted part of Dartmoor
Brian Warren, who has been manning a helpline for farmers in the Devon area, told BBC Radio 5Live that the number of calls has risen tenfold since the outbreak began.

He said that initially, callers were worried about their livestock developing the disease but they were now feeling the stress of two weeks of isolation.

Mr Warren said that as well as fear for their livelihood, farmers were having to hear "the cattle and the sheep being shot", as well as coping with the smell of carcasses being burned.

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.

Demand for meat in supermarkets is now said to have returned to normal levels after an increase last week which was "as big as Christmas week", according to Tesco.

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See also:

11 Mar 01 | Americas
US quarantines British tractors
10 Mar 01 | Scotland
Scotland's disease total climbs
07 Mar 01 | Europe
Hope as disease tests negative
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