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The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Protection is being stepped up rather than stepped down"
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The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee
"Ministry vets are very worried that foot-and-mouth could spread from this cluster"
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NFU spokesman Rob Simpson
"We urge farmers to keep a very close eye on their livestock"
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Thirsk farmer Robin Bosomworth
"It has been absolute chaos"
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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
'Wildfire' fear over foot-and-mouth
Foot-and-mouth spreads rapidly through pigs herds
The UK's biggest pig production area is under threat from a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

There are now 100 farms in the North Yorkshire area which have suffered an outbreak of the illness - including a new cluster of at least six reported in Thirsk.

But the latest group of infected farms is very close to the pig-breeding belt of North and East Yorkshire which could be devastated if foot-and-mouth spreads.

Pigs are far more susceptible to passing on the virus than sheep or cattle.

If it gets into the pig population it will spread like wildfire

Defra spokeswoman
Rob Simpson, regional spokesman for the National Farmers Union, said: "We are most concerned about the possibility of the virus getting into pig herds.

"They are 3,000 times more infectious than sheep.

"The area is the start of the major pig production belt which runs from North Yorkshire into East Yorkshire."

Pigs spread the disease more rapidly than sheep because of the large amount of virus they produce which is then breathed out and infects other animals.

Show halted

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: "The concern is that if it gets into the pig population is will spread like wildfire.

"We are taking precautions to prevent that happening such as slaughtering out within 24 to 48 hours and patrolling to investigate any potential outbreaks."

As well as the 100 farms infected with foot-and-mouth disease in North Yorkshire, about 500 other farms in the area have also lost all their livestock because of the government's policy to cull animals nearby to halt the spread of the virus.

Farmers want advice about whether to move animals
In a week which should have seen the Great Yorkshire Show get underway in Harrogate, farmers in the area fear they are being forgotten by the rest of the country.

Organisers decided to cancel this year's event after new cases of foot-and-mouth disease were detected within 20 miles of the showground.

At one point, it was hoped the event - which was to have been visited by the Queen and Prince Philip - could have gone ahead without cloven-footed animals taking part.

About 120,000 visitors would have flocked to the showground for the three-day event.

'Terrific disappointment'

Judy Thompson, spokeswoman for the organisers, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said: "It was a terrific disappointment not to go ahead with the show.

"It is the first time since the Second World War such a decision has been taken.

"Many businesses rely on the show to sell their goods and it is also a chance for farmers to show off the animals that they have worked all year on to bring them up to peak condition.

"Based on previous years' figures and the money we have already had to spend in preparation for the show, the cancellation has cost us about 750,000."

Action call

Meanwhile the National Farmers' Union urged the government to take more action to help those beleaguered by the disease.

Some members believe the crisis will not be over before Christmas.

Mr Simpson added: "Foot-and-mouth disease may not be making front-page news now but it is certainly not forgotten in Yorkshire.

"It has not gone away and there are new clusters of the disease appearing.

"Scientists carry out tests in new cases where the disease has not been seen before but in the majority of cases they do not have a conclusive answer about how it has spread.

Advice call

"There are usually thousands of possibilities and we are looking at more farmers who are just beginning to come to terms with foot-and-mouth on their doorstep."

Mr Simpson called on the government to improve the amount of information given to farmers battling to contain the disease.

He said: "Most of the complaints we get are from farmers who want practical advice about issues such as whether they can move animals, what disinfectant to use and whether to allow contactors on to their land.

"If the government could improve the flow of this kind of information then it would help matters."

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