|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: UK|
Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Mass slaughter intensifies
The government is intensifying the slaughter of farm animals in a bid to stop the escalating spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
Its dramatic new policy of automatic slaughter on farms which border onto infected farms comes as the number of confirmed cases rose by 45 to 560.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has been defending the government's handling of the crisis during a meeting with farming and tourist leaders in Devon, one of the worst affected area.
Conservative leader William Hague wants him to appoint a "crisis cabinet" to meet daily until the outbreak is under control.
He pledged after Saturday's meeting to stand by farmers hit by the "hellish" outbreak.
Mr Blair said: "We are doing everything we can, not only to get on top of the disease, to control and eradicate it, but to make sure that people here get not just the compensation they need but financial help they need for the future."
The government decision to allow automatic slaughter on farms which neighbour infected farms follows warnings from senior advisers about the potentially disastrous toll of the disease.
The extended cull will apply to cattle as well as to sheep and pigs, and is in addition to the 3km-wide cull now underway in the disease "hot-spots" of Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway.
Announcing the stepped-up slaughter, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said: "By getting the discovery-to-slaughter rate down to 24 hours or less, then we can have a significant impact on the disease itself.
"By pursuing our dangerous contacts policy, we can also have a significant impact on the course the disease will take."
As the confirmed disease total continues to rise in the UK, a second outbreak has been found in France, at a farm east of Paris.
Troops move in
The Army has been given a more active role in the crisis with senior officers setting up a team inside the MAFF to help in the co-ordination of the government's slaughter policy.
Brigadier Malcolm Wood, head of the Army logistics team working with MAFF, said his troops could help with the slaughter itself, or in the removal or burial of bodies, if needed.
It is now taking an average of 12 hours between cases being confirmed by vets and animals being slaughtered - about half what it was before.
But the problem has been in trying to speed up the period between farmers reporting suspected cases and slaughter.
The government hopes an increase in the number of vets, with volunteers from overseas and final year student recruits, will help ease this problem.
The average time taken to dispose of carcasses has dropped from four days in the first week of the crisis to 36 hours.
The measures follow an official government report which estimated that there would be more than 4,400 cases of foot-and-mouth by June.
The report said Britain's farming industry was facing a "very large epidemic" which will "continue for many months", with one estimate suggesting that the epidemic could grow by 70 cases a day.
Conservative Party leader William Hague wants Tony Blair to appoint a "crisis cabinet" to meet daily until the outbreak is under control.
Addressing the Conservative Local Government Conference in Coventry on Saturday, he accused the government of failing to act quickly enough to contain and control the epidemic.
He said: "It has failed to act with anything like the necessary speed or vigour and has consistently shown itself to be behind the game."
He added: "My message to the government is get it together. Get a grip."
Illegal meat worries
Campaigners have called for a windfall tax on banks' profits to help businesses struggling because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The Federation of Small Businesses regards the service being offered by banks to struggling tourist operators and farmers as "patchy".
But banking leaders responded by saying they would help any such businesses through the crisis.
Concern is also being raised about illegal meat imports being smuggled into the UK in consignments of fruit and vegetables.
Customs officials say up to 200 batches of illegally imported meat are discovered every month.
But many more are hidden in consignments of fruit because they are not subject to the same stringent checks as meat.
It is thought illegally imported meat could be a source of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
25 Mar 01 | UK
Archbishop prays for farmers
24 Mar 01 | Europe
France steps up disease alert
24 Mar 01 | UK
Army outlines plan for slaughter
22 Mar 01 | Scotland
Slaughter moves to Dumfriesshire
02 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Moves to stop spread of disease
24 Feb 01 | UK
1967: Remembering the epidemic
23 Mar 01 | Wales
Mass cull begins on Welsh border
23 Mar 01 | Education
Disease crisis hits exams
23 Mar 01 | UK
Vaccination 'would not have worked'
23 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Ten days for election decision - Blair
23 Mar 01 | Europe
EU approves limited vaccination
24 Mar 01 | UK
Call to tackle meat smuggling
24 Mar 01 | Europe
'Fraud' spreads French outbreak
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top UK stories now:
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.
Links to more UK stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy