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The BBC's Jane Warr
"The effects of foot-and-mouth have gone far beyond the farming community"
 real 56k

The BBC's Andrew Gilligan
"It is a sign that the government isn't in total control of the situation"
 real 28k

National Farmers' Union President Ben Gill
"The Prime Minister has reassured us"
 real 28k

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
"We are dealing with a disease that is stilll incubating"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 12:16 GMT
Army may help animal cull
Carcasses being burned
Farmers are worried about the time it takes for animals to be destroyed
The Army is being called on to help tackle the growing foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) made the request for immediate assistance directly to Armed Forces Minister John Spellar on Monday afternoon.

Number of cases: 191
Livestock slaughtered:
119, 994
Snipers and marksmen could be deployed to destroy animals on open land in areas infected by the disease.

Meanwhile, following talks at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, it was announced that a taskforce led by environment minister Michael Meacher would be set up as soon as possible to examine the impact of the foot-and-mouth outbreak on Britain's rural economy.

The move comes as the first case of foot-and-mouth is confirmed in France after it was detected in cows which had been grazing near sheep imported from the UK.

'No proposed cull'

Eight fresh outbreaks of foot-and-mouth on Tuesday brought the total number of cases across the UK to 191.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was doing everything possible to try and avoid a situation where a mass animal cull would have to be carried out.

He said: "We have a very serious disease control situation and I can call on all the resources of government that are necessary to help.

"Yes we are talking to the army about providing help but we're not using marksmen today to go out and shoot animals. There is no proposed cull of wildlife, nor do I have a unit of marksmen on standby.

"The only army resources we are using so far are a small number of vets from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps who are reinforcing the state veterinary service."

Army marksmen would only be used if it became immediately necessary to cull a large number of pigs in open areas, he said.

'Biological phenomenon'

Mr Brown also said he also hoped to avoid a mass cull of pregnant sheep and alternatives such as temporary lambing sheds and moving the animals to safety were still being explored.

He insisted the control measures being implemented were the right ones but said the scale of the disease had gone beyond everyone's expectations.

"We are dealing with a biological phenomenon that is not going to obey political instruction," he said.

"The two things I cannot say with certainty is what is incubating in Great Britain that we have not discovered yet nor can I say with certainty where it is, but in as much as human efforts can control this we have it under control."

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who began a series of talks with farmers hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis on Tuesday morning, said meetings would also be held with representatives of the tourist industry and rural business who had been badly affected by the outbreak.

Emerging from the talks, President of the Country Land and Business Association, Anthony Bosanquet, said he had been assured a taskforce looking at the impact foot-and-mouth was having on the rural economy, which stands to lose 100 million per week, would be set up as quickly as possible.

Britain is now the leper of Europe

Hugh Byrne
Irish natural resources minister
National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Ben Gill said he would use his meeting with the Prime Minister to raise farmers' concerns about the length of time it was taking for animals to be destroyed and disposed of.

"It's an opportunity to reassess the situation with the prime minister and impress on him the continuing need for resource into these problems," he said.

Irish criticism

The Irish Government has criticised Britain's handling of the crisis.

In an article for Tuesday's Independent newspaper Hugh Byrne, the Irish natural resources minister, accused Mr Brown of being "far too complacent".

He said Britain's neighbours were being exposed to the risk of foot-and-mouth because it had not adopted more stringent controls.

The whole of the European Union has a vested interest in eradicating this disease in Britain

Nick Brown
"Britain is now the leper of Europe," he said. "It is a scandal.

But Mr Brown denied Britain was not dealing with the outbreak correctly.

"The whole of the European Union has a vested interest in eradicating this disease in Britain," he said.

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore said Britain was now in the grip of a "major outbreak" as the number of cases continued to rise.

Mr Scudamore said officials were making it a priority to discover how the virus spread to a herd of 90 cattle at a farm near Pelsall, near Walsall - the first case to be confirmed in the West Midlands.

He also indicated that the 30-day movement ban for infected areas could be extended.

He said the main concerns were to:

  • keep clean counties clean
  • reduce infections in counties with small numbers of outbreaks
  • concentrate on the key areas of Cumbria and Devon.

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | UK
A farmer's fears
13 Mar 01 | UK
Is Britain to blame?
13 Mar 01 | Europe
Foot-and-mouth spreads to France
12 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Fear of second NI outbreak
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