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The NFU says today's forecast by the Government's Chief Scientist that the tide may be starting to turn on the foot and mouth disease is a glimmer of hope for Britain's countryside.

But NFU President Ben Gill said that the nightmare for Britain's livestock farmers was far from over and more still had to be done to ensure the Government's targets for slaughter were being met everywhere.

Ben Gill said: "This report provides a much-needed sign that the current slaughter and destruction strategy is having an impact on the daily incidence of this disease and further evidence that this approach is the best way to rid this country of foot and mouth once and for all."

He praised the work of the Army and others on the ground, from public servants to lorry drivers to the growing contingent of veterinary surgeons both from home and overseas, who have all helped to improve response times and management of the disease. He said: "I want to express my sincere thanks on this."

Ben Gill added that while further improvement was still needed, the scientific advice indicated that there was no need at the moment for vaccination to play a major part in the disease control policy.

The use of vaccination would ultimately require the diversion of vital resources in the short term and present a raft of medium and longer-term issues that extended far wider than the loss of Britain's ability to export.

There would need to be movement restrictions on produce and livestock from vaccinated areas and there would be the risk of vaccinated animals infecting healthy stock. Vaccination against foot and mouth disease is not the simplistic tool used to immunise people from childhood diseases.

He said: "This disease has devastated Britain's livestock sector and severely knocked the tourist and allied industries. Many farmers know that if they are to survive, the job of re-building the industry must begin soon."

Ben Gill added that more resources have to be made available in the disease hotspots of Cumbria and Devon and in areas of concern like Northumberland,the West Midlands and Gloucestershire to ensure the rapid slaughter policy continues to make in-roads into the disease.

He said: "The united fight against this disease must move forward from here with renewed determination. The faster we move, the fewer animals we will need to slaughter.

"The quicker we can remove this disease from our shores, the sooner farmers, allied industries and tourism can all be re-established. None of this is easy - indeed it is horrible - but it is what we must do."

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