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The NFU is insisting that Government officials consult directly with farmers in the worst affected areas of Cumbria and Devon before making a decision on toughening foot and mouth slaughter following the publication of two studies today.

The epidemiological studies make it quite clear that there should be a maximum of 24 hours between identification and slaughter, which would ultimately eradicate the disease.

The reports also state that there should be extended culls, likely to be to 3km, around infected zones in Cumbria and Devon.

At a meeting with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, NFU President Ben Gill said distraught farmers on the ground deserved nothing less than a clear explanation of why this second recommendation may need to take place, and precisely what it means.

He said: "The epidemiological studies provide a brutal warning on the potential spread of the disease and it is clear that further tough action will need to happen.

"But farmers need to hear this for themselves if they are to understand why these grave measures may be the only way to stop the disease.

"Any extension of the slaughter policy must be done in consultation with each of the areas involved to ensure that full account is taken of local

"There is nothing magical about the 3km distance - any additional culling must be based on the realities of the region rather than a pre-determined

"This underlines the crucial need to involve local farmers who are already suffering severely and need to be involved in the practical decision-making."

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