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Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers
"The cull will commence as soon as possible"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 March, 2001, 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK
Rodgers announces NI sheep cull
The culling of sheep in Northern Ireland is announced.
Slaughter of sheep is being extended.
Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers has said the cull of 2,000 sheep within a three-kilometre radius of Meigh, County Armagh will start on Tuesday.

The only case of foot-and-mouth in Northern Ireland was detected at a farm in Meigh at the beginning of March.

Mrs Rodgers said it was "purely a precautionary measure" after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at Proleek, County Louth, in the Irish Republic, which is close to Meigh.

Speaking on Monday after a meeting of the Northern Ireland Executive, she said it was a joint decision with her counterpart in the republic, Joe Walsh.

Brid Rodgers:
Brid Rodgers: Cull is extended

She said: "The purpose of this cull is to eradicate any foot-and-mouth virus that may be present in the sheep population where the two outbreaks occurred.

"It's within a corridor which goes right through the two areas in County Louth and Armagh between Proleek and Meigh."

More than 2,000 animals have already been slaughtered within a one-kilometre radius of the farm at Meigh where the virus was detected.

The further 2,000 sheep will be buried in a mass grave in south Armagh.

Union backs plan

The Ulster Farmers' Union has said it supports the plans for the cull.

The union's president, Douglas Rowe, said he sympathised with farmers who will lose their stock, but said it was another necessary evil.

On Monday, Joe Walsh met farmers in Louth to discuss the outbreak.

He said the three-kilometre exclusion zone around the infected farm at Proleek is to be extended right up to the border with Northern Ireland.

So far about 13,000 sheep and 600 cattle have been slaughtered in the infected area in County Louth.

Europe meeting

The European Union Standing Veterinary Committee is to meet in Brussels on Tuesday when Northern Ireland's application for regionalisation will be discussed.

On Thursday, the EU approved regional disease-free status for 25 counties in the republic, saying trade sanctions would only be confined to produce from County Louth.

Douglas Rowe said he believed there was a good chance the European Union will soon allow most of Northern Ireland to be declared foot-and-mouth free.

Douglas Rowe: Pushing for regionalisation
Douglas Rowe: Pushing for regionalisation

He told BBC Radio Ulster the Ulster Farmers' Union had been pushing hard for regionalisation, which could see the resumption of meat and dairy exports from the province.

"We want the same treatment as the rest of this island and not only the rest of this island but France and Holland have got the same treatment," he said.

"So we really want to make sure that we get regionalisation, that the biggest possible area of Northern Ireland is declared free of foot-and-mouth to allow us to go back to normal marketing."

Missing Sheep

Meanwhile, Brid Rodgers has said that sheep, thought to have been missing from the consignment at Meigh, have now been accounted for by the authorities in the Irish Republic.

In a statement to the assembly on Monday, she said she was relieved the sheep had now been traced.

So far, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have each had one outbreak of the livestock disease.

The Department of Agriculture can be contacted on its helpline numbers on 02890 524279 or 02890 524590 between 0830 - 2100 GMT.

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