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Foot and mouth:
The cull - emergency powers invoked for 100 landfill mass graves

April 15, 2001 Independent on Sunday (London) by Colin Brown

EMERGENCY POWERS to override the objections of local residents have been taken by ministers so that the carcasses of slaughtered healthy sheep and cattle can be dumped in 100 landfill sites. This latest drastic step in the fight against foot- and-mouth disease was taken to help the overstretched Army cope with a backlog of more than 400,000 dead animals awaiting burial, burning or rendering.

Ministers gave themselves the power under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act to order carcasses to be dumped on landfill sites against the wishes of local authorities, if necessary, because the disposal rate is not matching the numbers of carcasses piling up in farm fields across Britain.

The failure to bring the crisis under control is believed to have forced ministers who held a further meeting of the Cobra crisis committee yesterday to sanction limited use of vaccination to protect cattle which would be at risk when they move into fresh pasture. Vets were put on notice to expect the order to vaccinate by the end of this week and Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister, who had refused to rule out the action, was poised to make an announcement, in spite of farmers' objections.

Meanwhile, a giant pit capable of holding 430,000 sheep carcasses was being prepared at Ash Moor, Derbyshire. Officials in Chelmsford were awaiting test results which might confirm a suspected outbreak of swine fever near Colchester.

Amid fears of contamination, hundreds of demonstrators occupied a farm at Holsworthy, Devon, where thousands of carcasses will be burned. They claimed the site was too close to a residential area.

Spokesmen at the Department of Environment, which is responsible for the landfill sites, said the sites are for healthy animals slaughtered to provide "firebreaks" around contaminated areas, or to avoid further hardship to livestock which could not be moved.

The Government carried out a rapid 48-hour consultation, including the Local Government Association and Greenpeace, before invoking the powers to use the sites. Each one selected by the Environment Agency has a clay lining to prevent pollution of the local water table. But mistakes have happened in the past and there is certain to be anxiety about the use of emergency powers to speed the disposal of the carcasses.

Mr Brown ordered an investigation into the incident in Monmouthshire where a slaughterman was videoed firing a rifle at panicking sheep.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported that the daily total of cases was slowing, with 29 cases confirmed on Friday, bringing the total to 1,289. But there were fears that the confirmation of a case in Northern Ireland, after an earlier all -clear, could lead to restrictions being reimposed on the province by the European Union. A new mass slaughter programme of 4,000 cattle was announced in Ulster.

The French agriculture minister, Jean Glavany, attacked Britain's handling of the outbreak, saying in a radio interview in France that the UK's veterinary services were outdated and Britain had failed to give an early warning.

Landfill sites which may be used are in the following areas: Anglian: Brogborough; Calvert; Dogsthorpe; Peterborough; Arlesey; Green Lane, Stewartby; Corby; Ipswich; Buck- den. Midlands: Lower Gornal, near Dudley; Drayton- in-the -Clay near Uttoxeter; Cannock; Leamington Spa; Hartlebury; Tamworth; Bishops Cleeve; Cotham; Bilsthorpe. North-east: Woodkirk; Guisborough; Stanley; Chesterfield; Billingham. North-west: Withnell; Penrith; Todhills; Crewe. South-west: Torrington; Newton Abbot; Calne; Westbury. Southern: Warnham; Rochester; Romsey; Small Dole. Wales: Fochriw Road, near Methyr Tydfil; Roffett; Pontardawe.


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