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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Tories demand new disease strategy
foot-and-mouth warning
The disease has had a profound impact on rural Britain
The shadow environment secretary, Tim Yeo, has called on the government to change its approach to tackling the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Mr Yeo has written to environment secretary Margaret Beckett asking for clarification on what the government has done to speed up the eradication of the virus.

He said the new outbreak in Northumberland proved it was not yet under control.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo wants a new approach

In his letter Mr Yeo said: ""There must be a change to the current approach to combating the disease.

"Throughout the summer rural communities have continued to suffer.

"The countryside cannot afford prolonged neglected of its problems."

'Keep up your guard'

The Northumberland outbreak has led farming leaders in Scotland to call tighter controls to stop the disease coming into the country.

Jim Walker, president of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, said special disinfection stations should be set up at border crossings, to ensure all farm vehicles entering the country were free of the disease.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 1,989
Animals slaughtered: 3,773,000
Awaiting slaughter: 17,000

Scottish farmers had been hoping that after 90 days without a new case of foot-and-mouth they might soon qualify for disease-free status.

The last case confirmed in Scotland was on 30 May and farmers had been calling for a lifting of the ban on meat exports.

However farmers are now anxiously awaiting the outcome of tests on nine farms under tight foot-and-mouth restrictions in the Borders, after possible dangerous contact with a farmer from Northumberland

Scotland's rural development minister, Ross Finnie, has warned farmers to "keep up their guard" against the disease.

Mr Finnie said the biggest obstacle to achieving disease-free status was a failure by the industry to maintain its biosecurity measures.

Vaccination row

Farmers in Northumberland are hoping the new disease cluster there has been stamped out.

Thirteen cases in six days were discovered in the Allendale area, but on Wednesday there were no new cases.

The cluster dashed the hopes of the county's farmers who had also been hoping "provisionally disease-free" status was imminent, after no cases were reported since 22 May.

We are ready to vaccinate if the balance of acceptability and scientific advice leads us to vaccinate, but we are not at that position yet

Rural affairs minister Lord Whitty

Meanwhile the arguments over whether to vaccinate livestock has re-emerged.

On Wednesday the government's "rural advocate" Ewen Cameron called for a vaccination programme to be tested. He said the public would not tolerate large-scale culling if the disease breaks out again.

The NFU gave his comments a cool reception, saying it could see no reason to carry out such tests in the middle of a serious disease outbreak.

And on Thursday farming minister Lord Whitty said scientific advice was currently that vaccination was not an alternative policy to culling.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are ready to vaccinate if the balance of acceptability and scientific advice leads us to vaccinate, but we are not at that position yet.

"We're not saying we're not prepared to try it, but circumstances where it is likely to be more effective than our current policy have not yet arisen."

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The vast majority of the English countryside is also free of the disease"
Bob Howatt, Scottish lamb and beef farmer
"In the short term, it's not going to make an awful lot of difference"
Ross Finnie, Scottish minister for rural affairs
"There is no disease confirmed"
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