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There is a determination to stick to the policy of no more than 24 hours between identification and slaughter of animals on farms with foot and mouth and 48 hours for neighbouring farms, the NFU said today

Emerging from a meeting with the Prime Minister, NFU President Ben Gill said he believed this strategy was now beginning to eat into the backlog of confirmed cases in many areas of the country.

But a decision would need to be taken as soon as possible on whether use of "band" vaccination followed by slaughter is needed to alleviate the continuing major problems in Cumbria to augment the existing strategy.

Yesterday the number of animals slaughtered from farms confirmed as having the disease (34,000) exceeded the number of new animals being identified on infected farms (27,000), cutting into the backlog of confirmed cases by 7,000.

He stressed that this figure did not include "dangerous contacts" - animals traced as having links with infected farms - or animals on neighbouring farms which are still waiting to be culled.

Progress was now being made on such cases in Worcester, Exeter, Anglesey and Dumfries and Galloway but this needed to be further speeded up. Yesterday 45,300 such cases were waiting to be slaughtered, compared with 40,300 actually being culled.

He said: "There are some encouraging signs but we are still in a very, very serious situation and there are still major problems in Cumbria which must be tackled urgently.

"No firm decision has yet been taken on whether limited use of vaccination should be made but we are pressing for a decision to be taken as soon aspossible so that farmers know where they stand.

"We stressed once more that local farmers must be involved in this decision-making process and we understand Nick Brown is to travel to these areas for this to happen.

"I stress again - vaccination is not a miracle cure for this disaster. It is not like a jab against measles where you are protected for life.

"If it is used, it will merely buy us time and dampen down the infection in key areas - but that may be exactly what we need until such time as the animals can be slaughtered."

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