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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
'More bad news' could follow cull
Sheep undergoing blood tests
Any further necessary culls could take place within days
As a cull of 1,500 more sheep on the Brecon Beacons is prepared, the Welsh Assembly has warned there could be "more bad news".

In a meeting on Tuesday morning, graziers agreed with Welsh Assembly officials on a second mass cull, following the weekend's slaughter of 4,000 animals in the national park.

Slaughtered sheep
Carwyn Jones ruled out 'sinister source'
It follows confirmation of the infection in sheep on the Brecon Beacons around Pen y Fan and another flock on the Sugar Loaf in Llangenny. This brings the total number of cases in Wales to 114.

Chairman of the Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs Committee, Glyn Davies, said: "This is extremely serious. I would be surprised if there was not more bad news to follow.

"This undoubtedly indicates the virus has spread further into the Beacons than has been previously confirmed.

"It is likely to be spread much further still. It is also clear there are worries from other parts of Britain because testing is now taking place on other uplands as well. It is clear we have no idea of the scale of the problem as yet."

Alan Morris of the Farmers' Union of Wales described the situation as "deeply worrying for all farmers in south Wales.

"Where is it all going to end?" he said

Blood sample being taken from sheep
Thousands more animals are being tested in England and Wales
A further 4,000 sheep will be brought down from the Beacons and tested on Thursday, as farmers fear the chance of saving remaining hefted flocks is dwindling.

The Welsh Assembly's rural affairs committee, which is in recess, will convene on Tuesday to discuss the latest outbreak and to debate the administration's 65m aid package.

Committee chairman, Conservative AM Glyn Davies, called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to restart the "final cleansing" programme for farms, which was suspended on 23 July.

Milk escort

Meanwhile, in Cumbria, more than 80,000 sheep are also undergoing blood tests.

Crisis in Wales
Total confirmed cases UK-wide 1,900 - with 114 in Wales
Powys - 74 cases
Anglesey - 13 cases
Monmouthshire - 20 cases
Caerphilly 2
Rhondda Cynon Taff - 1
Neath Port Talbot -1
Newport - 3
One of the main concerns regarding the continuing outbreak, which began in February, is how the disease has spread to previously uncontaminated areas.

A Farmers' Union of Wales spokesman said a compensation scam could be to blame. Government officials are investigating claims some farmers may be deliberately infecting their flocks with foot-and-mouth disease to qualify for compensation payments.

It follows allegations from a Pembrokshire farmer who said she had been offered a diseased sheep in order to infect her flock.

Nuala Preston said she was "horrified" to receive a telephone call from a farmer offering her an infected sheep carcass for 2,000.

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones
Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones
A diseased sheep can fetch up to 90 in government compensation, much more than the current market value for clean animals.

But under new plans, which have been met angrily by farmers, the government's flat fee will be scrapped in favour of an independent valuer setting a price.

But Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said on Tuesday morning that epidemiologists' tests had established the latest Beacons outbreaks had not come from any "sinister or illegal" source.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"The big fear is for the future"
The National Farmers' Union President, Ben Gill
"What would vaccination have stopped? Nothing at all"
Rural Affairs Minister Elliot Morley
"Our intention is to stamp it out"
Countryside Alliance Chairman John Jackson
"There is growing anger and a lot of distress"
See also:

25 Jul 01 | Wales
Disease hits Beacons flocks
21 Mar 01 | UK
Rare breeds 'could be lost'
31 Jul 01 | Wales
A Brecon farmer's struggle
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