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The BBC's Valerie Jones
"Local residents will be watching to see how things go"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Welsh reports from Devon
"We are wallowing in carcusses"
 real 56k

Friends of the Earth spokesman Charles Secrett
says EU countries have been getting warnings about foot-and-mouth since 1997
 real 56k

Monday, 23 April, 2001, 04:20 GMT 05:20 UK
Pyres burn despite pollution concerns
Foot-and-mouth burnings in Devon
The controversial pyre in Devon set the night sky alight
The carcasses of thousands of culled animals have been burning through the night in Devon despite the concerns of residents and environmentalists.

Up to 7,000 culled animals are being consumed by flames at a huge incineration site near Holsworthy, Devon.

Environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has raised concerns about the level of carcinogenic dioxins which have been released by animal pyres all over the UK since the foot-and-mouth outbreak began.

The Department of Environment has confirmed that fires lit during the first six weeks of the foot-and-mouth crisis released 63g of dioxins into the atmosphere - 18% of the UK's average annual emissions.

Crisis in the UK
Cases on Sunday: 10
Total confirmed cases: 1,439
FoE has also called on the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to explain why warnings were ignored about the risks of a foot-and-mouth outbreak.

It said the government was repeatedly warned by EU experts that intensive farming and large scale animal movements would increase the risk of spreading foot-and-mouth and other diseases.

Confronted

On Monday FoE will also ask whether Agriculture Minister Nick Brown was told of the warnings from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare - and if so, whether he alerted his Cabinet colleagues.
Nick Brown
Nick Brown is to face a grilling about foot-and-mouth

The call comes on the day that Mr Brown and Chief Vet Jim Scudamore must also face a grilling about their handling of the crisis before a panel of MPs on the Commons Agriculture Select Committee.

Mr Brown is expected to be quizzed about the government's change of heart on vaccination, as well as on delays in the introduction of the Army.

Meanwhile Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has denied the pyres are risking public health, and said studies showed the dioxin releases were "the equivalent of two Bonfire Nights".

We will not take actions that will jeopardise public health, but there are no risk-free options

Geoff Hoon

But he conceded that, in Devon, animal carcasses had been left rotting in the open air because of difficulties finding means of disposing of them, and said officials were working "round the clock" to provide a mass burial site.

Twelve more pyres in Cumbria are burning or smouldering, but there will be no more built until the Department of Health reaches a decision on the danger caused by burning carcasses.

A Maff spokesman said: "We are awaiting further instruction from the Department of Health on, if and how, it is safe to continue."

The department has already ordered the dismantling of a pyre of 750 sheep and cows in Cumbria because it is close to a residential area.

New cases

A fourth case of the disease has been confirmed in Northern Ireland, and nine more cases across the rest of the UK, bringing the national total to 1,439.

One of the latest outbreaks is half-a-mile from the home of Conservative Leader William Hague, on a farm in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
A Maff official
The disposal of carcasses continues

A new case was also confirmed on a farm at Skewen, near Swansea - an area of Wales previously free of the disease.

On Sunday evening more than 2,600 farms in parts of Somerset, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire released from restrictions after the regions were declared infection-free.

The move brought to 9,267 the number of farms where restrictions have been lifted over the past five days.

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