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The BBC's Tom Heap
"The NFU is split - its national leadership is backing the government"
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The BBC's John Thorne in Cumbria
"They are adamant ....the whole tradition is not going to be wiped out"
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David Handley, Farmers for Action
"This is hypocrisy at its greatest"
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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 13:01 GMT
Rural revolt fears amid slaughter
Sheep and lambs grazing
Sheep within two miles of infected farms will be slaughtered
Anger is growing in the farming community over the government's planned cull of apparently healthy animals in the latest effort to contain foot-and-mouth disease.

All sheep and pigs within a two-mile radius of infected farms in Cumbria and south west Scotland will be killed, even if they show no symptoms.

The first animals are expected to be killed on Friday.

If we have got to blockade ourselves into our farms, then we will

Andrew Spence
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said it reluctantly accepted the pre-emptive cull but others are warning of direct action against the measure.

Another five confirmed cases of the disease were announced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) on Friday, bringing the national total to 256.

It is being reported that up to one million animals could be slaughtered.


The BBC's North of England correspondent, John Thorne, says some farmers in Cumbria are threatening to prevent Maff officials entering their land to kill animals.

Ben Gill
Ben Gill: Pre-emptive cull a necessary evil

"They can understand the thinking that this is a 'safety first measure' but on the other hand they believe it is a step too far to get rid of totally healthy flocks," he said.

Andrew Spence, regional co-ordinator for Farmers For Action, North East, said the cull would cause "rural revolt".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If we have got to blockade ourselves into our farms, then we will."

The war we should be fighting is against the virus. To be fighting each other is a ridiculous thing to do

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
The president of the NFU Ben Gill said he recognised the need for the mass cull but warned the crisis would have a deep impact on farming for months to come.

Mr Gill said farmers were facing the torture of seeing their herds wiped out and not knowing where the disease would strike next, or if their businesses would survive.

He added that he would be asking the government for a compensation package that would run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown insisted on Friday: "The war we should be fighting is against the virus. To be fighting each other is a ridiculous thing to do."

He also pledged money to help farmers recover from the crisis.

"We will not abandon them, we intend to help the industry recover afterwards and that means financial assistance from the government," Mr Brown added.

Farmers confused

Many farmers were left uncertain which animals would be slaughtered following the Agriculture Minister's statement in the Commons on Thursday.

Mr Brown apologised for his "ambiguity", making it clear that the policy of two-mile wide slaughter zones in Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway would only automatically apply to pigs and sheep.

Speaking at Maff headquarters, he said: "I want to apologise on my own behalf and behalf of the Ministry for any hurt this has caused farmers."

He added: "We didn't explain ourselves very well yesterday. Having re-read my statement it is accurate but I can see that it is ambiguous."

Number of cases: 256
Livestock slaughtered:
Due for slaughter: 64,000
Maff confirmed that in the case of the three markets in England and Wales - Northampton, Longtown and Welshpool - all livestock, including cattle, that have come into contact with infected or suspect sheep, will be destroyed.

Vets from the Ministry of Agriculture will also start daily inspections of farms in Devon, another of the worst affected areas.

Mr Brown said the government hoped to relax restrictions in areas which "remained clean" in a week or 10 days' time.

Worldwide clampdown

About 90 countries, including the United States and Australia, have now banned live animal imports and meat and dairy products from the EU after the disease spread to mainland Europe earlier in the week.

Already 205,000 of Britain's pig, cattle and sheep population have been condemned, of which more than 75% had been slaughtered by Thursday, according to government figures.

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See also:

16 Mar 01 | UK
Troubled waters in Lakeland
16 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farmer's grief at slaughter plans
14 Mar 01 | Europe
EU attacks disease blockades
16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Kangaroo meat boom
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