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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Brown jeered on Dales visit
Nick Brown is greeted by a small group of protesters
Nick Brown was confronted by a scrum of journalists and protesters
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has been jeered on his visit to the Yorkshire Dales, which has been hit by a new spate of foot-and-mouth cases.

One new case in North Yorkshire on Thursday brought the total in the county to 19 in the last fortnight, destroying the optimism sparked by the national decline in new cases.

Mr Brown held talks with the local branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), police, tourist bosses and council officials in Settle, North Yorkshire.

Foot-and-mouth facts
Total number of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases in the UK 1,639 - Two new cases on Thursday
3,028,000 animals slaughtered
73,000 animals awaiting slaughter
15,000 carcasses awaiting disposal
As Mr Brown entered the town hall, he was heckled by a small crowd.

"Where were you when we needed you?" shouted one man.

"Too little too late," said another protester.

Mr Brown's visit follows calls from local farmers for more support from the government.

They have accused ministers of ignoring their plight because of the election campaign.

Mr Brown conceded that there had been delays in identifying the disease in the area.

And he said estimates showed that more outbreaks were expected.

'Honest' figures

But he insisted there was an ample reserve of manpower to deal with the new cluster and said: "No resource is going to be spared in bearing down on this disease and eliminating it."

Mr Brown vehemently denied that the figures of outbreaks and slaughters were being massaged so not to show the full extent of the disease in the area during the run-up to the general election.

He said: "The figures are put together by a whole range of public services who do it honestly and to the best of their ability."

Almost 1,000 farms in the area have been placed under restrictions and livestock movements have been cancelled since the emergence of the new hot spot.

Protester Margaret Blackburne, holding a banner saying "We want an end to foot-and-mouth - Labour want an end to British farming", said her son-in-law was a local farmer who had had 3,500 animals culled.

Government 'mismanagement'

She said: "These are desperate measures that are not working.

"The government should have been on to it sooner and there's been a lot of mismanagement about.

"The rules vary with the wind. I think farmers are angry with the way they have been treated."

Map pinpointing Settle
Settle, an area hit by spate of cases
The Army's most senior officer in the north east and Scotland, General Robert Gordon, is also in the area to see what is being done to try to combat the crisis.

Extra troops have been called in to oversee the culling operation, amid fears the area could become "another Cumbria".

More than 70,000 animals have already been slaughtered and an extra 25 vets from as far afield as Australia have been drafted in.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that agriculture officials knew of the "significant risks" of feeding swill to pigs long before the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Swill restrictions

A memo written by a Maff vet suggests the practice was "a time bomb waiting to go off".

The disclosure came as Maff banned the feeding of catering waste to pigs, which is still being blamed for causing the first outbreak at a farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, more than three months ago.

But a letter written by Lincoln-based vet Charles Ross, and published on the Sky News website, suggests Maff officials were aware of the risks of swill feeding for some time before that first outbreak.

The memo speaks of a variety of hygiene problems, but Mr Brown said he could not comment on the allegations until he had seen a copy of the vet's memo.

But he maintained: "The prosecuting authorities are the local authorities, the local trading standards officers - it is not the responsibility of the ministry."

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See also:

23 May 01 | UK
Foot-and-mouth cases leap
22 May 01 | Vote2001
Farming row erupts
22 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Foot-and-mouth: A moving target
20 May 01 | UK
New cases dent optimism
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