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Livestock virus controls extended

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Livestock markets across the European Union are to be closed for two weeks in an effort to contain foot-and-mouth disease.

The move by EU veterinary experts covers all animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep, susceptible to the disease.

The EU panel also proposed extending the ban on British exports of livestock, meat and dairy products until March 27, when it will be reviewed again. It also said tyres on vehicles being driven from Britain to the continent must be disinfected.

New EU measures
Two week European Union-wide ban on movement of animals susceptible to foot and mouth disease to markets and livestock shows
Transport of animals to farms and abattoirs only allowed with permits showing that the farms and slaughter houses are free of the disease
Ban on export of British meat, dairy products and live animals to the EU extended until March 27

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CNN's Walter Rodgers: A major disaster for British Farmers.

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CNN's Peter Humi: Livestock markets banned in France

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David Byrne EU Food Safety Commissioner: prevention measures are available

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But the vets, meeting on Tuesday, said they would allow European transport of animals direct from farms to the slaughterhouse and between farms, subject to approval from relevant authorities.

The proposals are set to come into force once they are formally adopted by the European Commission, with a decision expected this week.

David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Food Safety, had earlier rejected calls for mass vaccinations, saying it would be too costly.

The proposals came despite British ministers telling their EU partners that the outbreak of foot-and-mouth may be close to peaking.

European Commission spokesman Thorsten Muench information from the British was "rather reassuring," adding: " The (British) authorities expect a peak today, tomorrow or through this week."

Cases of foot-and-mouth disease continue to rise in Britain, with 76 confirmed outbreaks, but there have been no confirmed cases in the rest of Europe amid widespread testing and culling of potentially infected animals.

Foot-and-mouth disease, which does not harm humans, causes blisters on the hooves and mouths of sheep, pigs, cattle and goats, undermining their economic value.

The British Government has ordered the slaughter of around 80,000 animals -- well short of the 400,000 killed in an outbreak in 1967.

The meat ban, initially self-imposed by the UK government, is costing the industry an estimated $12 million (8 million) a week in lost sales.

Meanwhile, a second suspected case of the disease on Dartmoor, which is home to deer, wild ponies, cattle and sheep in western England, is causing concern.

Ian Johnson, of the National Farmers' Union, said: "It would be logistical nightmare to control (the disease) in such an area."

Prince Charles 'desperate blow'

A tenant farm on land owned by Prince Charles, also in western England, has a confirmed case of the disease. The Prince said: "It is another desperate blow on top of so many others."

Britain did allow on Tuesday 201 abattoirs, which had been closed, special licenses to resume work.

But Norway barred British troops from taking part in NATO exercises for fear they could carry the disease on their boots, while the European Central Bank has switched the venue of its next regular monetary policy meeting from Dublin to Frankfurt amid concern about foot-and-mouth.

Horse racing events have been cancelled in Britain and France while the International Amateur Athletic Federation has moved its World Cross Country Championships from Dublin to Brussels.

France, which confirmed its suspected cases have proven negative, has already banned exports and suspended the transport of all cloven-hoofed animals -- except to slaughterhouses -- for the next two weeks.

It has also culled 50,000 sheep as a cautionary measure.

France's biggest consumer group, the UFC, recommended French consumers buy New Zealand lamb rather than British imported meat.

Other tests on livestock in Belgium and Denmark have proved negative, making the continent free so far from any confirmed cases of the disease.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
UK Ministry of Agriculture: Foot-and-mouth
Belgian Ministry of Agriculture
French Ministry of Agriculture
Danish Ministry of Agriculture (in Danish)
The European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease
European Union: Agriculture policies

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