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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Farmers urged to maintain biosecurity
Disinfectant point near Hexham, Northumberland
Defra says biosecurity is a priority
Farmers are being urged to persist with strict disinfection procedures following confirmation of the 2,000th case of foot-and-mouth.

The milestone case was discovered in sheep on common land at Orton in Penrith, Cumbria, the worst-hit county in the UK.

Opposition parties say the continuing outbreaks, the resurgence of the disease in Northumberland and the need to call on the Army for support show the government has no strategy to combat the disease.

Disease statistics
Cases so far: 2,001
Animals slaughtered: 3,809,000
Awaiting slaughter: 15,000
And as the government faces a legal challenge over the re-use of a foot-and-mouth burial site in County Down, officials suggest a further site could be re-opened.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says continuing biosecurity measures are a priority to stop further outbreaks.

A spokesman said the 2,000th case since the outbreak began meant as much to officials and veterinary surgeons fighting the outbreak as any other case had done.

Disinfection programme

"It's just a number," he said.

"Everybody in these infected areas has to pay huge attention to biosecurity to make sure it doesn't give the disease a chance to spread any further."

They are flying by the seat of their pants instead of focusing on a clear and responsible strategy

Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George
A disinfection programme in Cumbria has cleaned 200 farms so far, but Defra insists there is still a lot of work to be done.

Cleansing and disinfection manager Jason Robinson said disease eradication was always a priority.

"We have had to ensure that each farm has been cleaned to the required standards," he said.

"Modern farming methods have made this a huge logistical exercise involving highly specialised work."

Burial challenge

But communities living near the Tow Law burial site in County Down are at loggerheads with government officials.

Since the weekend 1,675 carcasses have been taken to Tow Law, which currently holds 37,000 carcasses from the initial foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Peter Lister, a member of the residents' committee liaising with Defra, lodged an official complaint with the European Commission's environment department in Brussels on Tuesday.

Tow Law protest
Protesters from Tow Law have lodged an official complaint
"Wherever there is an outbreak, we take it. It is beyond belief," he said.

"The European Commission can call for the closure of the site and that is our best hope because the UK Government is not going to."

Defra says the sites are needed because there are insufficient rendering facilities to deal with the growing number of carcasses.

More than 3,809,000 animals have been slaughtered since the crisis began, with 15,000 awaiting slaughter.

Defra has already suggested another burial site in neighbouring Northumberland could also be re-opened.

Government 'deceit'

But opposition parties say the government was deceitful when it suggested the disease was in the home straight.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said: "Ministers have no strategy for the containment and eradication of the disease and continue to dither about what the next steps should be."

Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Andrew George said the government had backtracked on the re-use of closed disposal sites.

"They are flying by the seat of their pants instead of focusing on a clear and responsible strategy to combat foot-and-mouth.

"Recurring cases of foot-and-mouth disease indicate the need for a better understanding of why and how the disease has developed and spread."

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