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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
Farmers claim 'disease control chaos'
Sheep on hills
Farmers need to bring sheep in from hills
Farmers claim that a new system to allow controlled movement of livestock in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis is in chaos.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) says there has been complete confusion over the issuing of licences to transport animals, which was supposed to start last week.

Union officials say it is adding to the stress and hardship of farmers affected by the controls imposed to prevent the spread of the disease.


The situation at the moment is confused in the extreme

Jonathan Birnie, NFU
Many farmers have been unable to move their livestock since the start of the outbreak seven months ago.

The transport ban has threatened special problems at this time of year as grass starts to run out on the hills and animals are normally moved to market or for breeding.

Last month ministers said new rules would allow more animals to be transported under a complex licensing system to prevent any further spread of the disease.

Confusion

The system was supposed to start last week, but farmers claim local officials have been unable to issue licences because of confusion about which animals in which areas are allowed to be moved.

Jonathan Birnie of the NFU in north-east England says it is adding to the hardship already caused by foot-and-mouth disease.

Disease in the UK
Total cases: 2,027
Slaughtered: 3,898,000
Awaiting slaughter: 5,000
Awaiting disposal: 2,000

"Licences aren't being issued efficiently or effectively," he said.

"The system is a bit of a mess at the minute. It basically means more delays and more strain and stress."

The spokesman for the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said teething problems could be expected in any national system.

Disease free

But, he said, the government was working with local authorities to eliminate these.

The spokesman said 3,000 movement licences had gone out to farmers in counties declared free from the disease.

The East Midlands and Leicestershire were the latest regions to be declared "foot-and-mouth free" after three months without a case.

Since the start of the outbreak there have been 2,027 cases with 3,898,000 animals slaughtered and 5,000 animals awaiting slaughter.

The government has also recently come under fire from the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), which said the response to the crisis had caused more damage to the rural economy than the virus itself.

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