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Today's decision to allow further restricted movement of livestock will allow some desperate farmers to move animals to fresh pastures or gather in sheep from remote fields for lambing, says the NFU.

The Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore has said that the movement of animals over short distances will be permitted for welfare reasons. But thecontrols will be strictly enforced because any movement of animals represents a risk to the FMD control programme.

The movements will only be permitted under licence* in unrestricted areas. Farmers will also need the approval of a vet before animals can be moved.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "This will offer some farmers, whose hands have been tied, flexibility to provide the best environment for their animals while ensuring that our guard against the spread of the disease is not relaxed."

There is a growing welfare problem in animals further away from the core farm. Talks between MAFF, the Chief Veterinary Officer and the NFU are continuing to see how and when the present scheme could be extended within a strict framework of controls.

But Ben Gill said: "We will not be pressing for any scheme that exposes the industry to any unnecessary further risk of spreading the disease. However, the welfare of animals away from home farms remains a great concern."

In line with the advice of Mr Scudamore the NFU accepted that the move to set up collection centres for animals, as part of the licence to slaughter scheme, should not be considered at this time, although planning for it continues.

The NFU welcomed the announcement that MAFF is to remove slaughtered stock to licensed rendering plants. This will speed up the destruction of carcases.

Ben Gill said: "This will spare farmers the added distress of having to see their slaughtered animals burned on the farm."

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