Animal pyres are poisoning Britain

April 1, 2001 The Observer by Kamal Ahmed, Anthony Browne and Paul Harris
BRITAIN is facing a pollution disaster because of the hundreds of thousands of carcasses being burned or buried as the Government fights foot and mouth disease.

Environmental bodies have warned the Government that the use of kerosene, creosote and red diesel to ignite the pyres is pumping lethal dioxins into the air.

There are also concerns that burying thousands of sheep in pits will pollute the water table. The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, said last night that cattle less than five years old also could be buried after the way was cleared by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which advises the Government on BSE, or mad cow disease.

Cattle have never been buried because of fears of spreading BSE into the water table. Cattle over 30 months old cannot go into the food chain.

David Manning of Nanovapor Systems, which tackles pollution problems around the world, said: 'We are storing up huge problems for our children and their children.'

As the crisis moves into its sixth week with no sign of abating, the environmental issue comes as a fresh headache for the Government. Yesterday Maff announced 60 new cases of foot and mouth since Thursday - a total of 846 - revealing that the rate of increase is not slowing down. The Government is now so concerned about the environmental issue it has asked the National Environmental Technology Centre to monitor the pyres. Last week in its first report to Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, the centre said there was evidence of dangerous levels of dioxins entering the atmosphere, particularly in the 3km radius around the fires. Dioxins are among the most deadly pollutants. At minute concentrations in the air they can cause cancer, changes in the body's genetic make-up and fertility problems.

Mike Childs, of Friends of the Earth, said: 'The release of so many dioxins is especially of concern, given that dioxin exposure can lead to cancers, genital malformations and learning difficulties.'

The Environment Agency said in a briefing document: 'Contamination can be difficult to detect and difficult, sometimes impossible, to remedy.'

Tory leader William Hague will tomorrow call for pounds 10,000 emergency loans for tourist businesses facing cashflow problems, VAT 'holidays' for affected firms and emergency arrangements to offset income tax payments for self-employed farmers.

More than 100 protesters yesterday blockaded an Army firing range earmarked for burning slaughtered animials in Sennybridge, Powys, mid- Wales, a disease-free area.

Farmers believe their land has been polluted. George Thomas of Greenacres farm near Highampton, Devon, says his farm has been ruined by the burning of his cattle on his land. The ash has also spread into a lake killing fish, and may have polluted the farm's groundwater.

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