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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 20:29 GMT 21:29 UK
Farm disease cases hit 2,000 mark
Protesters are worried about their children's health
The total number of confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK has reached 2,000.

Agriculture officials confirmed the latest case on Monday in Cumbria.

There have now been 876 cases in the county since the crisis began in February.

The milestone came as protesters continued their noisy demonstration outside a controversial carcass burial site in County Durham.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 2,000
Animals slaughtered: 3,802,000
Awaiting slaughter: 19,000
Residents fear the re-opening of the site at Tow Law is a public health threat.

They are considering court action to force the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to close it and have appealed to the European Commission.

Defra are considering re-opening another site in Northumberland at Widdrington.

The cluster of foot-and-mouth cases in north-east England is continuing to grow, sparking fresh slaughter - although Defra says there is now no backlog of animals waiting for disposal.

The mass grave at Tow Law re-opened after a fresh case was confirmed at Newbiggin Farm in Blanchland on Sunday. It was the 17th confirmed case of the virus in 10 days.

Click here for a graph of cases

Local residents say the site - the scene of protests three months ago - poses a serious environmental risk and they are battling to have it closed down.

Peter Lister, a member of the residents' liaison committee with Defra, criticised Margaret Beckett.

He said: "What we are angry about is the fact Margaret Beckett has described this site as a national asset - it is not, it is a national disgrace."


Margaret Beckett has described this site as a national asset - it is not, it is a national disgrace

Peter Lister
Protester
"We are satisfied that Tow Law does not pose an environmental danger," said a spokesman for Defra.

Eleven lorries dumped carcasses at Tow Law on Sunday and seven more which arrived on Monday morning were greeted by groups of protesters.

Ann Ward, 56, from Tow Law, said: "We don't approve of them burying right near a school. It is also far too near to the village. We don't know what the impact will be on the children's health in the future."

Local children are due to return to school on Tuesday after the summer holiday, but parents say they may keep them off unless the site is closed.

Terrible smell

Grandmother Jean White, 63, added: "We shouldn't have to live with this. We are fighting this because we do not believe it is safe.

"We get a terrible smell in the town when the wind blows in this direction and it is all going to start again."

Earlier this year residents had managed to get the site temporarily closed after demonstrating against a steady convoy of vehicles carrying carcasses in front of their homes.

Soldier stands in front of lorry being disinfected
Seventy soldiers are helping co-ordinate the cull
But the angry protests ended in the arrest and prosecution of six women from Tow Law on 12 May.

Although Newbiggin Farm is just within the "blue box" exclusion zone, Defra has extended the boundary a further three kilometres eastwards, into County Durham in an attempt to contain the virus.

Commenting on the 2,000 total, NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said: "This depressing figure must be put into context.

"This has been the worst outbreak of the disease ever known in the world and all the signs are that it is now in its final stages.

"In our worst nightmares we could never have imagined just how significant an epidemic this would be when we heard about that first case.

"But despite the bleak headlines, the huge efforts being made mean the situation is improving every day."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Thorne
"Officials are hinting a second burial site may have to be re-activated"
British Association of Science's Sir William Stewart
"Vaccination has a role to play and it should have been used sooner"
Northumberland NFU Chairman Malcolm Corbett
"It is almost unbelievable"
Fiona Nicholl was at one of the demonstrations
"People are very angry"
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