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Sunday, 5 August, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Farmers claim 1m payouts
Farmer with his herd of sheep
Reports talk of 37 "compensation millionaires"
Nearly 40 farmers have lodged compensation claims of more than 1m each for livestock slaughtered in the foot-and-mouth cull.

Cheques for more than 1m have already been paid to 37 farmers - mostly pedigree cattle breeders - the Sunday Times says.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the 37 claims had been received, adding: "We are considering them and where we agree with the valuation of the livestock the money would be paid."

The largest single payment - the paper says - is 4.2m to a farmer in Dumfries whose herds of Charolais and Limousin cattle were culled in March.

News of the "compensation millionaires" follows denials by ministers that they have squandered billions of pounds in fighting the disease.

Research for the BBC suggested vaccinating animals would have been at least 3bn cheaper than the government policy of slaughter and disposal.

But as a third cull of sheep is completed in the Brecon Beacons, ministers have claimed that the study is flawed.

Vaccination debate

University of Wales economist Professor Peter Midmore also said introducing vaccination now - six months after the first outbreaks - could still result in substantial savings if the crisis continues long term.

Disease facts
Total cases: 1,928
New cases Saturday: 2
Animals slaughtered: 3,656,000
Awaiting slaughter: 38,000
Awaiting disposal: 21,000
But junior Defra minister Elliot Morley said the widespread nature of the outbreak would have made ring-vaccination an impossibility.

He added: "This economic study seems flawed because it does not factor in the cost of compensation.

"There is an assumption that all the culled livestock would be sold as food yet some animals will be breeding animals and some could be dairy cattle with longer life spans of up to 10 years.

"Compensation for such losses would contribute far greater costs to the taxpayer than we are facing at the current time.

"We don't rule out vaccination and never have but the argument is a complex one."

Compensation 'scam'

About 5,200 sheep have been culled in the Brecon Beacons since last Friday.

Test results on a further 4,000 sheep from the Welsh national park are expected in the next few days.

Meanwhile, another report suggests that millions of pounds in compensation could be withheld by the European Union, over allegations of fraud by farmers.

It has been alleged that some farmers are deliberately infecting their cattle with foot-and-mouth in order to claim compensation payments, although the NFU says there is no evidence to support this.

The Independent on Sunday reports that the EU - which is meeting up to 60% of the compensation cost - is threatening to hold back the payments until the claims are further investigated.

The BBC's Caroline Thomsett
"The government's culling policy has again been called into question"
Soil Association's Helen Browning
"We would rather vaccinate than wholesale slaughter"
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