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2001: Ban follows foot-and-mouth outbreak
The European Commission has banned all British milk, meat and livestock exports following the UK's first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease for 20 years.

The ban - which will run until 1 March - follows yesterday's revelation of a foot-and-mouth outbreak at an abattoir near Brentwood, Essex.

A routine inspection at Cheale Meats abattoir in Essex diagnosed the virus in 28 pigs.

The government should have acted sooner to prevent the risk of this disease entering Britain through sub-standard meat imports
Tim Yeo, shadow agriculture minister
Chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore said all 300 animals at Cheale Meats would be slaughtered immediately.

The National Farmer's Union has said a second suspected case has been discovered in Gloucestershire.

Five-mile animal movement exclusion zones have been placed around the Essex abattoir and the site in Gloucestershire, which is thought to be somewhere between Woodchester and Nailsworth.

The British government is considering imposing its own ban on the export of all livestock, meat and milk from the UK.

Beleagured farmers

This is the latest blow to Britain's already beleaguered farmers following last year's outbreak of swine fever, which led to the slaughter of 12,000 pigs and a temporary ban on the export of live pigs and pig semen.

Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown said: "If we can get on top of this and get back to a disease-free status quickly then hopefully the damage can be minimised.

"But if it goes on for some time the damage could be substantial."

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo criticised the government for not doing enough to prevent the outbreak.

"British farmers cannot survive another round of dithering from MAFF like that which took place in the autumn over classical swine fever," he said.

"The government should have acted sooner to prevent the risk of this disease entering Britain through sub-standard meat imports."

Foot-and-mouth is a highly infectious viral disease that can affect cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. Symptoms include blisters in the mouth causing increased salivation and lameness.

Animals do not actually die from the disease but stop gaining weight and dairy cattle produce less milk.

The last major outbreak in Britain was in 1967, while the most recent outbreak in the European Union happened in Greece last year.

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Pig on a farm in Hook, East Yorkshire
The European export ban covers all British livestock, meat, and milk

Farmers hit hard by Foot-and-mouth ban

In Context
The UK foot-and-mouth crisis that began in February 2001 had a huge impact on the country's economy.

Altogether, there were 2,030 confirmed cases of the disease in the UK and Northern Ireland and about six million animals were slaughtered.

The cost to farming was put at more than 900m.

Tourism and the rural economy are estimated to have suffered losses of 5bn.

Compensation for farmers whose animals were slaughtered to prevent the virus spreading or for welfare reasons topped 1.34bn.

The last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth was in September 2001 but there were a number of false alarms after that.

The government has been criticised for its handling of the crisis by farmers.

A report by the National Audit Office in June 2002 said warnings of a shortage of vets to deal with such an outbreak went unheeded.

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