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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
EU to end British meat export ban
No entry sign in Surrey
A surveillance zone still surrounds the two affected UK farms
The export ban on livestock, meat and dairy products, imposed after the foot-and-mouth outbreak, is to be lifted from Saturday.

A committee of EU vets decided to give initial approval for the resumption of meat and animal product exports from Britain to EU countries.

But the ban will continue in the 10km (6.2 miles) zone around the Surrey farms at the centre of the outbreak.

The UK ban on animals being moved to slaughter has already been lifted.

'Under control'

The decision has been welcomed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who thanked farming communities for their patience.

"We're determined not just to learn the lessons but to get back to normal as quickly as possible. And I do thank the rural communities and the farming communities of this country for their patience and their forbearance," he said.

"It is by acting quickly and by acting decisively once we knew of the incidence of foot-and-mouth, that we've been able to bring it under control so quickly."

Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the decision would be "a huge relief for thousands of families across the country - farmers, the red meat industry and all those involved in the process of getting meat from the farm gate to the plate".

Northern Ireland - which was exempt from the ban - will also be allowed to export via Britain, providing precautions are taken.

The National Farmers' Union said the decision to lift the ban was "fantastic news".

NFU President Peter Kendall said: "This is a positive move and will obviously mean a significant change for our members who have remained vigilant and co-operated with government to bring this situation to an early end."

This is a clear demonstration of the confidence which our European Union colleagues have in the disease-control measures
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn

EU Commission spokesman Philip Tod praised the "swift action" of the British authorities.

He said: "Imposing an immediate standstill on movements, imposing controls in the surveillance zone around the outbreaks, and quickly identifying the source have enabled us to take this step."

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "This is a clear demonstration of the confidence which our European Union colleagues have in the disease-control measures that we have taken in this outbreak."

Fred Landeg, deputy chief veterinary officer for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said it was an "excellent result" for Britain and he expected trade to resume after the weekend.

"There will be some administrative measures to put in place in terms of certification and, before animals can be exported under these strict rules, there has to be a three-day notice period," he said.

He added that the surveillance zone would be lifted subject to testing which would begin on 30 August.

Outside the EU

The situation is expected to be reviewed by the European Commission on 11 September.

It is unlikely all movement restrictions will be lifted before next month after further testing of animals in the surveillance zone around the farms where foot-and-mouth was found.

Vets will have to carry out more tests on animals close to the two farms, and the farms themselves will have to be thoroughly cleaned.

However, an export ban to countries outside the EU, imposed by the international veterinary organisation, the OIE, can only be lifted in early November, three months after the initial outbreak.

Meanwhile, the ban on the movement of cattle and sheep to abattoirs, imposed by the government, is being lifted on Thursday. Animals will be able to go to slaughter provided there is no change in the level of disease risk.

Foot-and-mouth was confirmed in a herd of cattle at Woolford Farm in Surrey on 3 August.

A second case, at a farm nearby, was confirmed on 7 August.

Surveillance zones around these farms remain in place.

Tests on two other farms, one in Surrey and one Kent, and on animals at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, all proved negative.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A senior UK vet welcomes the lifting of the ban



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