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Foot-And-Mouth On The March

Actress Martha Plimpton attends the opening night of ''The Coast Of Utopia Part Two: Shipwreck'' on December 21, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Bryan Bedder
The army's large-scale animal slaughter and a policy change permitting burial of young cow carcasses led to some words of hope Sunday in Britain's fight against foot-and mouth disease.

But the number of cases continued to climb, surpassing 890 in the course of the day. And in the southwest county of Cornwall, which had appeared to be disease-free for four weeks, a new case was confirmed.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown insisted again that the highly contagious livestock disease was "most certainly under control."

But the severity of the crisis reportedly has led Prime Minister Tony Blair to postpone a general election believed to have been planned for May 3 - although never confirmed. Blair made no announcement Sunday, despite newspaper and television reports that he would now wait until June for a nationwide vote.


Don't succumb to livestock disease jitters. Check out our interactives answering questions about foot and mouth disease and mad cow disease, which by the way, are not at all the same.


Brig. Alex Birtwistle, meanwhile, said the new policy of burying the carcasses of cows under 5 years old instead of burning them should speed up the disposal of thousands of dead animals, some have which have lain on farmland for three weeks.

Birtwistle, the army leader in charge of the huge slaughter and burial site in Cumbria, northwest England, told BBC TV that some 120,000 sheep have been buried at the airfield and 10,000 animals a day were being culled there.

He said he hoped to bring the slaughter-to-disposal time to less than 24 hours within days.

The burial of cow carcasses had been banned because of concerns that the soil would become contaminated by Mad Cow Disease - Bovine Spongiforn Encephalopathy. Announcing the cattle burial policy on Saturday, Brown said it did not pose a risk of infection to the water table or surrounding land.

CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton talked to one British farming couple, Chris and Gillian Gaden, who had just watched their entire dairy herd, built up over 30 years, killed because of foot-and-mouth fears.

Chris Gaden says the cattle were injected and led into a shed, where basically, they appeared to just fall asleep.

Then the shock set in. "Tomorrow morning, am I going to get up at half past five, six o'clock?" he said.

"It's very sad," said his wife, "looking back, knowing that it has taken all these years for my husband to build up this herd and it's just gone."

Foot-and-mouth disease, which is not harmful to humans, strikes cloven-hoofed animals like sheep, pigs and cows. More than 940,000 animals have been earmarked for laughter, 353,000 were waiting to be killed and 166,000 carcasses awaited disposal.

British Agriculture Minister Brown said enormous efforts were being made to isolate and eliminate the disease, and pointed to the emotional toll on the people in the front line.

Lt. Col. Gary Donaldson, leader of the army effort in Durham and Cleveland counties in the northeast, said the veterinarians are particularly affected.

"We are finding them in tears. Not only are they killing animals they want to cure, they are also having farmers in extreme trauma," said Donaldson.

The bolt-guns used to stun animals before slaughter were overheating, he said, and trained soldiers were finding the experience traumatic.

"The boys on the ground are witnessing the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of animals," he said. "One soldier turned away and threw up and then got back on with the job."

A new outbreak spelled the end of the Cheltenham Festival, Europe's biggest jump-race meet, which was canceled Sunday after the disease came within 5 miles (8 kilometers) of the racecourse.

The races had been set originally for March, but reset for April 17-19 when the disease was first discovered. The British Horseracing Board has canceled the meet.

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