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The BBC's Rachel Ellison
"The Department of Health is worried about the risk of BSE"
 real 56k

Keith Baker, British Vet Association
"Vaccination brings with it as many problems as it is likely to solve"
 real 56k

The BBC's Mike McKay talks to a farmer in Cumbria
about the safety of burying cattle
 real 56k

Monday, 2 April, 2001, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Farm vaccine decision delayed
Forest of Dean sheep being rounded up
Sheep in the Forest of Dean are being rounded up
The decision on whether to proceed with the vaccination of cattle against foot-and mouth has been further delayed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

An announcement on the controversial move, first expected on Friday, was due from Agriculture Minister Nick Brown on Monday.

The delay comes as health officials are locked in debate about whether it is safe to bury thousands of cattle carcasses, after fears were raised about the risk to human health.

On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a postponement of the local elections, and by implication the general election, until 7 June.

He said it would be "inappropriate" to proceed with elections while the mechanisms to control foot-and-mouth disease were still being put in place.

But he added that a prolonged postponement "would not be in the national interest".

Crisis in the UK
Total confirmed cases 901
353,000 animals due for slaughter
587,000 animals have been slaughtered
421,000 carcasses destroyed
Later Mr Blair will meet the Soil Association, which represents organic farmers and backs vaccination over the "cruel and unnecessary slaughter".

Farmers leaders have called for more research to be carried out before a decision is taken on using vaccines.

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill has said such measures should be used only if the situation gets worse.

On Monday, publisher-turned-organic farmer Peter Kindersley withdrew his High Court challenge to the government's policy of slaughtering healthy animals.

A spokeswoman for Mr Kindersley said his aim had been to put the vaccination option onto the agenda, and not to hinder Maff in its battle against the disease.

Burning backlog

The operation to bury 20 lorry loads of cattle carcasses has been on hold for 24 hours at the Great Orton site in Cumbria, as health and agriculture officials continue to argue whether burial is a safe option.

Thousands of dead sheep, pigs and cattle have already been dumped in mass pits but the Department of Health is said to be concerned about the risk of mad cow disease, or BSE, from buried cattle.

The Army says Maff gave permission for the burial of the cattle carcasses, under five years old, after reassurances from BSE experts.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Angus Taverner said on Monday there would have to be a decision within the next 24 hours on whether to send the culled animals off the site.

Tony Blair wearing protective clothing on a visit to Newcastle
Tony Blair: Battle against disease "upgraded"
Plans to bury thousands of slaughtered cattle in specially dug pits in Cumbria and Scotland were introduced after the initial burning option led to a huge backlog.

If permission to go ahead with the burial is not granted on Monday the carcasses will have to go to a rendering plant.

The number of outbreaks in the UK has now reached 901.

More than 940,000 animals have been earmarked for slaughter, with 353,000 waiting to be killed and 166,000 carcasses awaiting disposal.

Mr Blair, expected to postpone the local elections until June, is said to favour vaccination, believing it could help further control the crisis.

Culled sheep in Cumbria
The Great Orton site has already seen thousands of sheep buried
But opponents in the farming industry have warned they could do long-term damage to British exports.

Farmers have warned the policy would end Britain's disease-free status and could mean 1bn lost in meat export revenues.

Tourism has also been badly hit by the crisis.

The English Tourism Council has set up a "tourism cabinet" to work out a foot-and-mouth recovery plan for the industry.

It will update the government on the impact of the disease and oversee an advertising campaign to stimulate tourism over the vital Easter and May bank holidays, and the half-term week.

Actor Sir Sean Connery is set to join forces with Scotland's first minister to persuade America that the country is "open for business" despite the crisis.

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See also:

02 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Blair to explain election delay
01 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Blair delays May election
31 Mar 01 | Business
Meat adverts hit by foot-and-mouth
01 Apr 01 | Other Sports
Cheltenham Festival called off
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