Foot-and-mouth crisis talks at No 10
By Johann Tasker
TONY BLAIR is holding emergency talks with farmers leaders to discuss the possibility of government help over foot-and-mouth disease.
The Prime Minister is meeting leaders of the main farming unions, including National Farmers Union president Ben Gill, at Downing Street.
Mr Gill is expected to raise concerns that it is taking too long to dispose of carcasses on farms where animals have been culled to control the disease.
He is also worried that some overseas meat producers are taking unfair advantage of the foot-and-mouth crisis by shipping cut-price meat into Britain.
Mr Gill is also expected to highlight the ongoing problems surrounding livestock movement restrictions, which are preventing farmers moving sheep.
In a bid to prevent an animal welfare catastrophe, agriculture minister Nick Brown is considering culling up to 500,000 sheep trapped in restriction zones.
Mr Brown has also made arrangements for Army snipers to be called in if necessary to cull pigs on open land in areas infected by the disease.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Agriculture regional offices are continuing to process applications to move livestock short distances on the same farm.
Occupational licences can be obtained for repeated journeys up to 500m along roads in infected areas so long as the farm is not under Form A or D restriction.
For single journeys up to 5km as the crow flies or 10km by road, a local movement licence can be issued so long as the farm is not under restriction.
The National Farmers Union is advising members that one local movement licence can be used for several trips to and from the same place at the same time.
After movement under a local movement licence no further movements will be allowed, except to slaughter, for 21 days, said the union.
MAFF officials will consider applications which do not meet these criteria and ask farmers to give details on the application form.
Nineteen cases of foot-and mouth were confirmed on Monday (12 March), taking the total number of outbreaks to 183.
|Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks|
|Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage|