Dartmoor case confined to one farm, say vets

Agriculture
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The Independent Online

Fears of a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among the tens of thousands of animals grazing across Dartmoor receded yesterday as vets said they believed the moor was free of the virus.

Fears of a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among the tens of thousands of animals grazing across Dartmoor receded yesterday as vets said they believed the moor was free of the virus.

A specialist report on the outbreak at Dunna Bridge farm in the heart of the moor concluded that the disease was confined to the farm enclosure. Officials were studying the report yesterday before deciding what action to take on nearby farms that may have been in contact with the virus.

Jim Scudamore, the chief veterinary officer, said: "There is an intense epidemiological investigation going on to discover how the disease got there.

"At the moment we do not believe the main moor is affected so we are looking at the farms which have holdings on the edge of the moor." But livestock on moorland around the farm will be culled, said the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) said yesterday.

Maff confirmed five more cases of foot-and-mouth yesterday taking the total number to 86. They were at sheep and cattle farms at Arthuret in Cumbria, Hawes in North Yorkshire, Hilton in Derbyshire, Queensbury, near Bradford, West Yorkshire, and Ruthwell in Dumfries and Galloway - Scotland's ninth case.

A total of 47,000 animals on farms infected or having had dangerous contacts with the disease have been killed since the start of the outbreak nearly two weeks ago.

Another 35,000 are earmarked for slaughter.

Baroness Hayman, an Agriculture minister, defended the decision not to ban horse racing after anger from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) that race meetings were to go ahead. Organisers had to take their own decisions, based on risk assessments from Government vets, she said.

"We are applying the same process of risk assessment and risk management to different circumstances and the outcome will be different, "she said.

Vets held talks yesterday with the NFU to try and agree arrangements to move sheep off their pasture ready for lambing. Farmers are concerned that lambs may be put at risk by the ban on animal movements.

Lady Hayman said a scheme would be in place next week. Officials' first priority was to ensure that foot-and-mouth did not spread, she said.

Tim Bennett, NFU deputy president, said: "It is the start of the lambing season and it is important that we get sheep closer back to base and in some instances to get them into sheds. We are running into an animal welfare problem."

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