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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
'No more pyres' for Devon
Many local people feel that pyres are a health risk
Ministry of Agriculture (Maff) officials in Devon say they will stop using pyres to dispose of slaughtered animals infected with foot-and-mouth disease due to environmental and health fears.

No new pyres will be built in the county after the weekend, and infected carcasses will be rendered or buried instead.

Maff officials say the use of large and small-scale pyres in Devon can be reduced as the backlog of carcasses awaiting disposal there has fallen to about 14,000.

Meanwhile, a new case of foot-and-mouth has been confirmed in Somerset, 10 days after the county was declared free of the disease.

It is only the county's second case since the outbreak began.

A total of nine more cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed so far on Wednesday - taking the total across the UK to 1,538.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,538 - 9 on Wednesday
2,382,000 animals have been slaughtered
118,000 animals awaiting slaughter
The strength of opposition to the fires used to dispose of carcasses has grown in Devon in recent weeks, with many protesters raising concerns over the environmental and health implications.

But Maff's local director of operations, Dr Peter Greig -Smith, has said that with an increased rendering capacity and more burial sites now available, fires will no longer be needed unless the number of cases dramatically increases.

Farmers' leaders have welcomed the move, but say it is more symbolic than a real indication the crisis is finally over.

They say the emergence of a new case across the border in Somerset is testament to the need to remain vigilant.

Restrictions lifted

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that progress is being made in tackling the disease and disposal operation.

Speaking during Prime Minister's questions, Mr Blair said many of the movement restrictions put in place to control the spread of foot-and-mouth were now being lifted.

Something like 16,000 farms have been lifted out of restrictions within the last few days

Tony Blair
But he admitted there have been "real problems" with the scheme compensating farmers for their slaughtered animals.

Mr Blair said: "There have been real problems with the welfare scheme, partly because of the large numbers of animals and partly because the restrictions on movement have been so great.

"Recently we have been able to lift large numbers of those restrictions, something like 16,000 farms have been lifted out of restrictions within the last few days.

"The numbers in the scheme are falling, the backlog is coming down, also many animals are being withdrawn. It is likely to be far easier to do than we originally thought."

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See also:

23 Apr 01 | Health
Human 'may have foot-and-mouth'
23 Apr 01 | Health
Human foot-and-mouth: The history
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