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Too many questions remain unanswered on the issue of whether vaccination should be used in the fight against foot and mouth, the NFU said today.

More evidence and further dialogue is needed before any decision is made, said NFU President Ben Gill.

Mr Gill, Deputy President Tim Bennett and Director General Richard Macdonald spent the morning in a meeting with other UK farming organisations, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown and Government senior scientific advisors, including Chief Vet Jim Scudamore.

They discussed the evolution of the disease throughout the UK and in particular in the worst hit areas of the North West, South West and southern Scotland.

They looked at how effectively the current control measures are working and gave detailed consideration to the implications of any complementary measures such as strategic vaccination.

Mr Gill said: "We believe many questions remain unanswered. Where will the disease go with the current intensity of culling? What practical things are stopping us from increasing the rate of slaughter?

"Reports from around the country suggest that there is some improvement - although it is limited - in applying the current strategy for eradicating the disease. There is a clear need for evaluation of any additional measures before any augmentation of that strategy is carried out.

"Everyone in the meeting agreed that a slaughter and destruction policy remains the best solution to the problem. The key remains rapid slaughter of confirmed cases.

"The question we need to answer is whether sufficient resources are available now and, if not, can they swiftly be made so to enable this policy to have the desired impact? For example, the maximum number of veterinary and slaughter teams is vital.

"Only if these further resources are not available or if the situation markedly deteriorates might there be grounds for using vaccination."

He added: "We must also press on with the destruction of carcasses. Their ultimate disposal is not so important for foot and mouth control purposes but must be done to allow affected farmers to start their recovery."

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