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Beckett admits epidemic could drag on until october as latest round of slaughter begins

Beckett admits epidemic could drag on until October as latest round of slaughter begins

June 26, 2001 The Independent (London) by Nigel Morris

THE FOOT-and-mouth epidemic could drag on into the autumn, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, warned yesterday.

She said new cases of the virus, which has brought agriculture to its knees and caused the destruction of millions of animals, could continue into October. As she spoke, the slaughter of thousands of animals began in the Brecon Beacons following the detection of a new outbreak.

Mrs Beckett, visiting a disease-hit farm in North Yorkshire, forecast a "long tail" to the outbreak. She said: "It's all the more reason to bear down on cases that do emerge so we can begin to move towards the end."

Mrs Beckett said: "Nobody can put their hand or their heart and say precisely how long it will go on. That's why we have to do everything we can to stop their being fresh cases of the disease."

Pressed on whether that could mean new outbreaks as late as September or October, she said: "Nobody can rule out that timespan, but obviously it's essential to use the advantage of the summer months and of the better weather, to get the disease eradicated."

She added: "Anybody who said to you that this couldn't happen again would be an idiot and I hope I am not an idiot."

Mrs Beckett, dressed in a full biosecurity suit, faced protesters demanding an end to the policy of mass slaughter as she toured High Ground Farm, Hellifield, near Settle. Its herd of more than 280 cattle was culled after a recent outbreak at a neighbouring farm.

The farmer, David Beresford, said: "I hope her visit allows her to get some sense of the trauma the outbreak has caused and the difficulties we face in trying to restock our farm and rebuild our lives."

Foot-and-mouth has been confirmed at 85 farms in a cluster either side of the border between Lancashire and North Yorkshire, forcing a cull of more than 240,000 animals.

Mrs Beckett said: "There isn't any magic wand to take away the consequences of this easy-to-spread and difficult-to-eradicate disease but we are doing everything we can.

"We try to listen to what's being said and take account of any new developments or advice but all the evidence we have says this is the way to get ahead of the disease and to stay ahead of it."

She repeated the Government's pledge to hold an inquiry into the world's worst foot-and-mouth epidemic, but said it would not take place until the disease had been stamped out.

Bob Parry, president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, described the new case of foot-and-mouth disease at a farm near Brecon yesterday as "a tragedy". It came just after the reopening of many footpaths in the popular tourist area. Mr Parry said: "While we may be experiencing the tail-end of this epidemic, the signs are that it is a very long tail indeed."

Holiday caterers in the Brecon Beacons area, who say they have lost millions of pounds because of the epidemic, are calling for emergency aid from the Government, warning they face ruin.


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