LONDON Sep 29 (Reuters) Prime Minister Gordon Brown today asked Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to examine whether farmers should be compensated for two outbreaks of cattle diseases to hit Britain this year.
The economic damage cause by the bluetongue livestock virus and foot-and-mouth disease, resulting from lost production and restrictions on the movement of livestock, has been estimated at tens of millions of pounds.
''Gordon Brown has talked to Hilary Benn to get him to review whether farmers should be entitled to help over the outbreaks,'' a Downing Street spokesman told Reuters.
On Friday, deputy chief veterinary officer Fred Landeg said there would be no aid for farmers.
Britain reported its first ever case of bluetongue last weekend in Suffolk, eastern England, and several subsequent instances have since been confirmed.
''There are now 11 cases of bluetongue,'' said Brown on Saturday.
''We're taking all the action that is necessary within a protected zone. At the same time we've had seven cases of foot-and-mouth.
''There have been no new cases for five days and, while we will not be complacent, we are taking action at a very high level within the protected zones there.'' Brown was speaking after attending a meeting of a committee to discuss the two outbreaks, having earlier held talks with the veterinary service and the National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall.
Britain's livestock sector is still reeling over an outbreak of foot-and-mouth in August which led to an EU ban on British exports of fresh meat, live animals and dairy products.
Bluetongue virus causes fever and mouth ulcers and in some cases turns an animal's tongue blue. It is transmitted by insects such as midges and can be highly dangerous to sheep and cows, although it does not affect humans.
Landeg said there would be no cull of animals with bluetongue disease as it would not help stop its spread. The strategy is in stark contrast to foot-and-mouth where whole herds are slaughtered when a case is discovered.
Reuters SYU GC1850