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UK livestock restrictions may be eased by end of week

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) Restrictions on the movement of livestock across Britain to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease may be eased by the end of the week, the country's chief veterinary officer said today.

A national ban on animal movements remains in place since the confirmation of foot and mouth on two farms in Surrey, southern England.

Exceptions to the ban -- such as the movement of animals to slaughter, to milking or for emergency treatment -- are subject to licences and strict biosecurity conditions.

''By the end of the week we should be able to make some sort of staged, risk-based approach to animal movements,'' chief vet Debby Reynolds told Sky News.

A spokeswoman for the farm and environment ministry, Defra, said that if there were no more reported cases of the highly infectious disease by the end of the week, restrictions could be lifted, but that would happen in a gradual way.

As a result of the outbreak, more than 570 animals have been destroyed and the European Union and other countries have banned British meat and dairy exports.

Farmers say the trade curbs are costing them 1.8 million pounds (3.6 million dollars) a day and are frustrated at the movement ban.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said it was in talks with Defra on easing nationwide transport restrictions and hoped for progress by the middle of the week.

''Our priority is to get this sorted, we would hope that by Wednesday we could see something,'' a spokesman said, adding by then the foot-and-mouth crisis would be more than 12 days old, the maximum incubation period for the disease in sheep.

Reynolds said she understood the frustrations of farmers.

''Those who can sell direct to slaughter are already able to do so under strict licence conditions. The situation is still day 10 in this outbreak, we need to remain vigilant and take careful staged steps forward,'' she added.

A severe outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 forced the slaughter of six million animals and inflicted billions of dollars of losses on farmers and the tourism industry, as much of the countryside was closed to visitors.

Inspectors have said that a research facility at Pirbright in Surrey that was developing foot and mouth vaccine was very likely to have been the source of the latest outbreak, although they are still trying to pinpoint the cause.

The Pirbright facility, close to the two infected farms, houses a government-run laboratory and a second lab run by Merial, owned by US firm Merck and French firm Sanofi-Aventis SA.

REUTERS SKB KP1930

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