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NFU President Ben Gill today issued a message to the public to enjoy their Easter holidays in the UK - but to keep on their guard against inadvertently helping to spread foot and mouth disease.

He said: "I am very grateful to all those who have responded to the plight of farmers and rural communities and have kept away from areas affected by foot and mouth.

"But we acknowledge that all the constraints have hit the tourist industry very hard and that a balance must be found. The farming community has been working with local authorities to identify footpaths and areas that can be opened at minimal risk.

"There are many sites that people can still visit and enjoy from countryhouses to farmers' markets in country towns and villages. But we must stress - please take all the necessary precautions and be on your guard."

He said that visitors to the countryside this Easter should respect three golden rules:

* All "keep out" and "road closed" signs should be obeyed. No-one should use closed footpaths or bridle-ways.
* Do not go near cows, pigs, sheep, goats or deer and do not feed or handle them or leave waste food around.
* Do not go on farmland or open country or walk dogs, even on a lead.

He added: "Our over-riding priority remains the eradication of foot and mouth from the countryside. This is in the long term interest of everyone, visitors to the countryside, rural businesses and farmers themselves.

"Farming and the rural tourism industry go hand in glove - we must all work together to get through this."
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