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The BBC's John Thorne
"Disturbing scenes of the reality of animal slaughter"
 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, 22:09 GMT
Farm disease 'could last months'
farmers watch cattle burning
The cull is being seen as a pre-emptive measure
The Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has admitted that the foot-and-mouth outbreak could persist for several months.

In his most gloomy prognosis yet, Mr Brown said that even if the disease was brought under control, it could take three months before all residual infections are cleared.

Mr Brown's remarks come at the end of the worst day yet for foot-and-mouth with another 25 confirmed cases - equalling the daily record.

There are now 323 foot-and-mouth confirmed cases in Britain and one in Northern Ireland.

Vet shortage

Mr Brown said it will take at least three months to wipe away "residual infectivity" before Britain can get its disease-free status back.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown
Mr Brown: Britain running out of vets

He said the spread of the disease has been so bad that Britain is running out of vets to diagnose and supervise the disposal of carcasses.

"The difficulty we have is that we need trained vets," he said.

The Centre For Economics and Business Research has estimated disruption from the crisis will cost the UK economy 9bn.

Chief Vet Jim Scudamore admitted the outbreak is already worse than 1967.

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

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

Junior Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin
Joyce Quin hopes to get her message across to farmers
National Farmers' Union President Ben Gill warned that restrictions on animal movements will last for the rest of the year even if the disease is eradicated.

He told BBC One's On the Record programme: "I think the down-time, down-stream consequences of this disease will mean that there will be movement restrictions on livestock, certainly on sheep, for the foreseeable future. Certainly the rest of this year.

"We clearly have to take every effort to contain the spread, particularly in Cumbria."

Mass cull

Plans for the mass cull in Cumbria and in Dumfries and Galloway, where the disease is rife, have been put on hold until Mr Scudamore's meeting with farmers' leaders and vets on Monday.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Joyce Quin visited Cumbrian farmers on Sunday in a bid to convince them that only a mass cull of their animals can effectively stop the disease.

Cumbria is the worst affected county with 86 confirmed outbreaks while neighbouring Dumfries and Galloway now has 46 cases. Devon has 43 cases.

Mr Scudamore will seek to reassure Cumbrian farmers that the only way to stop the further spread of the disease is for a mass cull of cattle within two miles of infected sites in the county and the neighbouring Scottish counties of Dumfries and Galloway.

He said there was a heavy risk of infection in those regions and a lot of sheep were undoubtedly potentially infected even if they showed no signs of the disease.

Cumbrian farmers are resisting the mass cull, but Mr Brown has urged them to reconsider.

"Controlling a disease like this in a modern society requires consent," he said.

Already, the Scottish Executive has given the go-ahead for the culling of about 1,800 healthy sheep in Morayshire and Aberdeenshire which came into contact with infected sheep in Cumbria.

A mass cull will take place on 500 Scottish farms within two miles of infected farms and 30 farms outside the two mile radius.

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See also:

18 Mar 01 | UK
Farm disease cases top 300
18 Mar 01 | Scotland
Farms complete first cull
18 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Elections still planned for May
17 Mar 01 | UK
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17 Mar 01 | Europe
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