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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"Ban on movement of pigs has now been extended"
 real 56k

Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown
"No matter what we have to isolate the disease"
 real 28k

The BBC's Judith Moloney
"The industry has so far welcomed the government's actions"
 real 56k

Friday, 18 August, 2000, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Pig farmers promised 'fair treatment'
A York pig farm
Restrictions have been imposed on more pig farms
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has promised pig farmers they will be "treated fairly" over compensation for the outbreak of swine fever.

But he has refused to speculate on whether the European Union could be persuaded to reduce the scope of its export ban on English pigs.


The way to get out of this is to convince people we have got this beat

Nick Brown
Mr Brown held a meeting with representatives of the pig industry on Friday to give them reassurances and to discuss how to maintain public confidence that pork is safe to eat.

The meeting follows new restrictions on the movement of pigs on seven more farms across the country after animals showed symptoms of the highly contagious disease.

Representatives from the National Farmers' Union, the National Pig Association, abattoir owners, retailers and East Anglian farmers affected by the outbreak attended the meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff).
Map with affected areas in orange
The government is confident swine fever is being contained

The EU's veterinary committee could reduce the scope of the export ban when it meets on Tuesday if it can be shown the outbreak has been limited to a certain area.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Brown told BBC Radio 4's the World at One programme that it was still uncertain that the disease has been confined to the controlled area.

But he said: "I have to plan for the eventually that that isn't what has happened and that is why these farms are under surveillance."

'Working hard'

Looking towards next week's crucial meeting with the EU committee he said: "There is a testing regime and we will get the results of the tests in the next few days and then we will know what we are up against."

Officials were "working hard to get evidence" to present to the EU next week, he said.

"The way to get out of this is to convince people we have got this beat," he added.

But the minister declined to give any details of the possibility of any immediate aid being offered to hard-pressed farmers.

Restrictions

Mr Brown said his priority was to control the spread of the disease.

The minister said he had discussed compensation, both for the welfare of pig farmers and for "industry restructuring", with other EU states.

The consultations with countries including France and Germany had been very helpful, he said, and the European Commission had "gone out of their way to help us".

Nick Brown
Nick Brown: Approved farms could get their licences back
Mr Brown said: "I will make sure we are treated fairly, as fairly as anyone else.

The latest restrictions imposed in Cheshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Dorset, Derbyshire, Sussex and the Isle of White bring the total number of farms affected to 35.

Government vets are carrying out tests on animals from there.

'Precaution'

The other 28 farms under restrictions are in East Anglia, where five farms were confirmed with classical swine fever and 12,000 pigs slaughtered.

Neville Kemp, a pig farmer from Norfolk, told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he head nearly 1,000 pigs which he could not sell.

Instead of making money from them, he was having to spend money feeding them and on other costs, such as electricity.

A Maff spokesman said the restrictions are a precaution to ensure the disease is contained.

Mr Brown said he would consider issuing slaughter licences for the 10km surveillance zones around infected farms seven days after the disease has been wiped out.

Fears for the market

The pig meat from these areas must be cooked before it is sold to guarantee the disease is killed, he added.

Speaking for the Liberal Democrats Colin Breed said the government should "pay compensation to those directly affected and ensure that the market does not collapse".

While chairman of the National Pig Association John Godfrey praised the government for the swift response to the outbreak but he was anxious that ministers "ensure there is not permanent damage to the pig industry".

Although deadly to pigs swine fever is not a threat to people.

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See also:

18 Aug 00 | UK
Swine fever: the facts
16 Aug 00 | UK
Hopes for end to EU pig ban
16 Aug 00 | Americas
US restricts UK pig imports
11 Aug 00 | UK
Swine fever fears mount
03 Jun 99 | UK
UK blacklists Belgian food
22 Jan 98 | Europe
German pig imports banned
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