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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Disease 'fraud' scandal hits farms
Sheep grazing on common land in the Brecon Beacons
Infected sheep could fetch above clean sheep's market value
A Pembrokeshire farmer has offered the first evidence that a foot-and-mouth compensation scam may be operating in Wales.

Nuala Preston said she received a telephone call from a farmer offering an infected sheep carcass for 2,000.

It is evil, causes stress and trauma for farmers and undermines the whole rural community.

Glyn Powell, Farmers Union of Wales
The carcass could be used to spread the disease throughout her flock and fraudulently claim compensation from the government.

Rumours of a foot-and-mouth compensation operation circulated in Pembrokeshire in June but the county has remained free of the disease throughout the crisis.

The Farmers Union of Wales said such a scam was "evil" and could be the reason for the spread of the disease into previously clean areas.

'Evil scam'

Miss Preston, 39, who keeps 45 ewes, 10 cattle and breeding ponies at Trefoel Farm near Nefyn, turned down the offer.

"I was so horrified I slammed the phone down," she said. "I was absolutely appalled that anyone should dream of doing that.

Blood sample being taken from sheep
A further 6,000 sheep will undergo tests for the disease
"But I think some farmers on the brink of desperation and bankruptcy might be tempted to go for it because at least they would get compensation for their animals."

The National Assembly said they and Dyfed Powys Police are looking into the claim.

West Mercia Police launched their own investigation in to a scam which involved illegal movement of sheep for compensation.

'Undermines economy'

Glyn Powell, deputy president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said: "It is evil, causes stress and trauma for farmers and undermines the whole rural community.

"It may be an element of the inexplicable spread of the disease to unexplained quarters."

The illegal movement of infected animals flies in the face of the government's containment policy, which involves rapid cull of any infected animals and those exposed to the virus animals.

Mass slaughter

The Brecon Beacons in mid Wales saw a mass slaughter of 4,000 sheep on Saturday in an effort to stamp out the disease.

Traces of foot-and-mouth antibodies were found in flocks roaming the national park and farmers are awaiting more test results which could mean a cull for another 6,000 sheep.

Confirmation that more of the hefted flocks, which roam the hills and pass knowledge of their environment through the generations, would come as a further bitter blow to the agricultural economy.

Government compensation can fetch up to 90 while a disease-free sheep might go for around 10 far at current market value.

President of the National Farmers Union in Wales Hugh Richards said: "The industry is in a desperate state and desperate people will do desperate things - but show me the evidence that people are at it."

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