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The NFU today appealed to the horseracing community not to resume racing tomorrow because of the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease.

NFU President Ben Gill has written to the Race Horse Trainers Organisation, the Jockey Club and the British Horse Racing Board to ask them not to take part in racing for at least the next seven days.

He said "I know that what we are asking is very difficult and I in no way underestimate the degree of sacrifice involved. But farmers are extremely concerned about the possible spread of foot and mouth.

"I am well aware that we have resumed some movements from farm to abattoir, but the important point here is that these animals will be slaughtered and all movements will be under the strictest of conditions. They will not be returning to farms once they have left.

"There are many steeplechasers that are kept on farms with other livestock and these will leave farms and return.

"We must not take even the smallest risk when combatting such a terrible disease.

"I cannot believe that anyone in the horse racing community would want to be involved in a long-runing foot and mouth saga in the British countryside. The support so far from all sections has been heartening and we are extremely grateful."

Mr Gill also reiterated his appeal to all farmers and rural dwellers to stay away from major sporting and other public events.

He said: "We would ask everyone in the rural community to please think twice before attending any event where there are large crowds of people. Our efforts to contain the disease appear to be working so far - we must not jeopardise that."

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