Hundreds caught flouting foot and mouth measures

Hundreds caught flouting foot and mouth measures

August 11, 2001 The Independent (London) by Marie Woolf and Elliot Morley

HUNDREDS OF farmers have been caught flouting emergency measures introduced to stop the spread of foot and mouth and are facing fines of up to pounds 5,000.

The Government is investigating allegations that some farmers moved extra animals on to their land before culls to boost compensation payments.

Dozens of farmers are facing prosecution for illegally moving animals in foot and mouth infection zones, the Independent has learnt. Some have been discovered moving livestock without a licence, submitting false licence applications and doctoring official licences granted by local authorities for the movement of animals. Farmers have also been caught disposing of dead animals in rivers.

In the foot and mouth hotspot surrounding Thirsk, 82 farms are facing fines of up to pounds 5,000 for failing basic disinfection standards such as providing foot baths for visitors.

Twenty-four hour patrols have been mounted by trading standards officers in the Thirsk area to try to catch farmers who are breaching the rules.

North Yorkshire trading standards officers say 35 farmers face prosecution for breaching the rules on the movement of livestock. Foot and mouth cases have been found in Thirsk, Settle, the Skipton areas, on the outskirts of Whitby and in the Northern Dales.

Farmers need a licence to move animals for slaughter under the emergency measures introduced by the government to combat foot and mouth.

"We have had instances of animals being moved with no licences or more animals being moved than a licence is for. We require farmers to follow an exact route and some have taken shortcuts going into a non-infected area and back again," said a spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council.

"We had a chap in Whitby who flung a dead sheep into a river. The biggest problem is farmers allowing their animals to stray and we have had a couple of cases in court."

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and trading standards officers are investigating the claims of deliberate fraud.

"I have heard these allegations and they are being looked into," said Elliot Morley, the Animal Health minister.

Cumbria Trading Standards have found more than a dozen farmers have been found guilty of breaching restrictions.

"We have had 14 cases of people guilty of illegal movements of animals and have more cases in the pipeline," said Ernie Greenhalgh, Trading Standards Officer at Cumbria County Council.

"The compensation payments have been reasonable and there have been allegations about farmers."

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