EU extends ban on UK meat exports
By Honor Mahony
The EU has maintained its ban on the export of fresh meat and livestock from Britain for at least another two weeks following a meeting of veterinary experts in Brussels yesterday on the foot and mouth outbreak.
Saying that the foot and mouth situation has not "stabilised" in Britain since the outbreak last Friday with culling at a third farm in Surrey ordered on Wednesday afternoon, a European Commission spokesman said it would be "premature" to alter the EU measures.
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"It was felt that it was best to keep the whole of Britain as a high-risk zone for the time being on the understanding that we can of course review this when we consider it prudent to do so," he continued.
The measures are to stay in place until 25 August. Two days before that, EU vets will gather in Brussels once again to assess the situation.
Northern Ireland remains exempt from Wednesday's decision meaning animal products and livestock may still be exported from the region so long as it is clearly labelled with a health certificate and the destination country is given three days warning.
The EU chief veterinary officers also agreed that meat from Northern Ireland will be allowed to transit through Great Britain on route to the European mainland.
Senior British vet Fred Landeg described the decision to keep Britain a high-risk zone as "a precautionary approach until [the authorities] find out exactly what is happening."
Nationally, Britain has eased the restrictions on animal movement somewhat by allowing livestock to be transported for slaughter from midnight last night - the move follows intense lobbying by farmers.
The cause of the outbreak has not been definitively sourced. But The Health and Safety Executive said there was a "strong probability" the outbreak began at the Pirbright Laboratory located nearby.
The site houses vaccine producer Meriel and the state-run Institute for animal health.
The Executive said there was just a "negligible" chance the virus could have been transported by wind or flooding but suggested that "release by human movement must be considered a real possibility."