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The BBC's John Thorne
"The spreading blight of foot-and-mouth"
 real 56k

The President of the NFU, Ben Gill
"I have total sympathy with the people caught up there"
 real 56k

Jacquie Mounsey, a farmer from Cumbria
"It seems awful to think we may have to slaughter the animals"
 real 56k

Sunday, 18 March, 2001, 14:53 GMT
Farm disease cases top 300
Moria Linaker fears her sheep may be culled
Many farmers fear losing their livestock
The government is stepping up pressure on farmers to accept a pre-emptive cull, as foot-and-mouth cases top 300.

Junior Agriculture Minister, Joyce Quin, is visiting Cumbria, one of the worst affected areas, to explain the policy to local farmers.

But many whose livestock face culling have questioned the government's logic and are threatening to resist the mass slaughter.

What all of us want to avoid is the situation where we think we have got it under control and it breaks out again

Joyce Quin
Junior Agriculture Minister
On Sunday, the number of confirmed cases stood at 309, and it is estimated the outbreak will cost the UK economy 9bn.

"The situation here is a very serious one," Ms Quin told BBC News.

"I want to show by the visit how fully engaged we are at ministerial level with this issue.

"What all of us want to avoid is the situation where we think we have got it under control and it breaks out again."

'Worse than 1967'

The government's chief vet Jim Scudamore has said the current outbreak is already more severe than the last one to affect Britain.

"Just three weeks into this outbreak we are already looking at 278,000 animals affected," he said.

I cannot in all honesty say that it is under control

Duke of Westminster
"In the six months the 1967 outbreak lasted, only 400,000 animals were affected, which shows the severity of this."

He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that without a pre-emptive cull "the potential source of infection ... will remain there and it will cause considerable problems".

It could act as a "focus of disease and infection" which could spill over into Cumbria and the rest of the country, he said.

Slaughter 'pointless'

Cumbrian sheep farmer Jacqueline Mounsey, whose healthy flock faces slaughter, said it was pointless when officials cannot cope with the existing level of culling.

"At the moment they are not even getting on top of the situation," she told the BBC. "They have nowhere to bury the cattle, nowhere to burn them.

"It seems as though it just isn't under control."

Junior Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin
Joyce Quin hopes to get her message across to farmers
The Duke of Westminster, one of the country's biggest landowners, agreed.

"I cannot in all honesty say that it is under control," he told the BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme.

"Having been through the '67 outbreak, it is not under control."

The duke has given 500,000 to help farmers affected by foot-and-mouth disease. The Prince of Wales has donated a similar amount.

Cull underway

Eleven further cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed on Sunday, bringing the total across the UK to 309.

The cull of healthy animals, planned as a pre-emptive strike to halt the disease spread, began on Saturday on two farms in Scotland.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Richard Burge
The Countryside Alliance delivered a protest to the House of Commons
The farms involved had no confirmed cases of the disease, but links with an infected market at Longtown near Carlisle.

Meanwhile, the Queen is reported to have criticised horse racing bosses for not banning the sport for the duration of the crisis.

Buckingham Palace says she has corresponded with the British Racing Board of Control but has refused to confirm the reports.

Tourism cost

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said the 9bn cost to the country would result from loss of earnings, higher food prices and the impact on tourism.

It warns that the effects could last into next year, with an extra 2.1bn predicted loss.

Paul Crawford, CEBR senior economist, said: "The potential loss from foreign tourism is massive."

The ongoing crisis has also affected other events this weekend.

The Countryside Alliance cancelled a "Liberty and Livelihood" march due to be held in London on Sunday.

The alliance's chief executive Richard Burge has delivered a "calling card" to the Houses of Parliament instead.

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See also:

18 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farms complete first cull
18 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Elections still planned for May
17 Mar 01 | UK
Tourism aid 'must wait'
17 Mar 01 | Europe
On the brink of ruin?
18 Mar 01 | Other Sports
Queen 'concerned' over racing
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