Cattle Markets Reopening

Cattle markets closed by last year's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease will reopen next week under strict cleanliness standards, the government said Tuesday.

Those markets not meeting the standards will be closed again.

Cattle markets were shut and livestock movements severely restricted after the foot-and-mouth outbreak was detected in February 2001. Some markets since have resumed limited trading.

Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious disease that causes wasting in cloven-hoofed animals such as cows, sheep and pigs. Although not fatal, it can ravage a country's livestock trade.

There have been no new cases of the airborne disease since Sept. 30, and the World Organization for Animal Health declared Jan. 23 that Britain was free of the disease.

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease affected more than 2,000 British farms. More than 4 million animals, including 3.3 million sheep, were slaughtered to curb the epidemic.

The government said Tuesday that farmers and market operators must comply with strict biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of another outbreak. Markets will reopen Monday.

Inspectors will issue trading licenses only when they are satisfied that cleanliness standards have been met, Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty said.

Controls on livestock movements will be further relaxed, although some restrictions remain.

"We must strike a balance between the needs of industry and the veterinary advice that some disease control precautions are still necessary," Whitty said. "This is not going back to the way things were."

©MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed