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Farm minister Masahiko Yamada expressed thanks Tuesday for the culling of six privately owned stud bulls over the weekend, saying it will help clear the way for Japan to resume exports following the recent foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in Miyazaki Prefecture.

“I think our country can become clean (of the disease) with confidence,” Yamada, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said at a news conference, thanking the prefectural government and the owner of the bulls for changing their minds after initially opposing the slaughter.

Saturday’s culling of the bulls brought to an end the slaughter of more than 289,000 livestock animals in an effort to contain the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

The owner of the stud bulls, Nagahisa Komoda, 72, reversed his earlier opposition and agreed to kill the animals as a precautionary measure after his plea to spare them was rejected by the central government.

Concerning a report that a livestock farm hit by foot-and-mouth disease in Kawaminami, Miyazaki Prefecture, missed signs of the disease before the prefecture announced the first outbreak on April 20, Yamada admitted the farm had been slow in reporting the case to authorities.

Yamada said the issue may be discussed at a third-party panel to be set up soon on the disease.

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