Farmers facing fines for flouting virus measures

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The Independent Online

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 £5,000.

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 £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 virus hotspot surrounding Thirsk, in North Yorkshire, 82 farms are facing fines of up to £5,000 for failing basic disinfection standards such as providing foot baths for visitors.

Trading standards officers have mounted 24-hour patrols in the Thirsk area in an effort 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 short cuts 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 know of more than a dozen farmers who have been found guilty of breaching restrictions.

Ernie Greenhalgh, trading standards officer at Cumbria County Council, said: "We have had 14 cases of people guilty of illegal movements of animals and have more in the pipeline.

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

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