16 August 2001
Chaos over stock virus standstill

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

FOOT-AND-MOUTH restrictions have been plunged into chaos after farmers applying to move livestock had licence applications rejected without explanation.

Farmers applying for movement licences at the Welsh National Assemblys Carmarthen office were all turned down on Thursday (16 August).

Arwyn Owen, policy director for the Farmers Union of Wales, responded to members complaints by spending several hours investigating the problem.

“Some licensing offices have not been strictly applying the rule that stops a licence being issued to farms which received stock within the previous 20 days.

“We have been assured that new guidelines are being issued, and the temporary suspension of the system will be short-lived.

“Farmers have done nothing wrong and they could really have done without this sort of shambles.”

Meanwhile, graziers calling for the vaccination of sheep against foot-and-mouth in the Brecon Beacons have had their hopes dashed.

At a meeting in Cardiff, representatives from the two Welsh farming unions and Welsh Assembly officials rejected calls for vaccination to be introduced.

They agreed that the severely damaging impact on exports meant it was not an option, even in irreplaceable hefted flocks.

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said he was optimistic that culling sheep to create a fire break had stopped the disease spreading.

Recent tests showed none of the sheep grazing four hefts had antibodies.

FUW president Bob Parry said: “He appeared quite confident that all the blood tests now being carried out on 30,000 sheep will prove negative.

“Mr Jones also remained adamant that the introduction of vaccination would delay exporting for a very long time indeed.”

Mr Parry added: “When all the facts were spelled out nobody around the table called for vaccination.”

But John Pratt, spokesman for a farmers group opposed to culling, said Mr Jones had no idea of the views of ordinary farmers and had never spoken to them.

Mr Pratt claimed that Mr Jones had cancelled a meeting with his anti-culling group when he learned that legal representatives would be present.

“This is the way this minister operates. He will never actually meet and talk to people who disagree with his policies.”

Much of the three hour-long meeting concentrated on marketing problems.

Delegates were told everything possible was being done to help farmers move livestock, including the immediate lifting of Form D restrictions in north Powys.

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