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NFU President Ben Gill is to meet the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor today to try to get answers to a series of outstanding questions on the use of vaccine in the fight against foot and mouth disease.

At the meeting with Professor David King this morning, Mr Gill will attempt to find out what scientific reasoning the Government has for the u-turn in its policy on vaccination.

Mr Gill said: "I have had various meetings with Government representatives in the last 24 hours, including the Prime Minister, and I am still gravely concerned at suggestions that vaccination is the route we should take.

"We have not simply got our minds closed to this because we are being obstructive. We have asked for a number of questions to be answered and reassurances to be given before farmers take this extremely high-risk step. Currently the response that we have had from Government has created more questions.

"And these are not simply economic concerns, as some have suggested. There is a real possibility that the use of vaccination could actually prolong this outbreak, resulting in the culling of more cattle rather than less. This has happened elsewhere in the world.

"Once we go down this road there will be no going back. And it is farmers throughout the UK - not just in vaccinated areas and not only cattle farmers - who will have to bear the consequences for a very long time to come."

Among the questions the NFU has asked are:
* How does the situation differ now from when previous advice was issued by the Government suggesting vaccination was not the best route?
* Does MAFF have sufficient skilled resources to operate a vaccination programme without detracting from the 24-hour culling programme?
* Will food processors and retailers buy product from vaccinated animals, now and in the future, and if the products aren't marketable will the Government act as a purchaser?
* Following Holland's decision last Thursday to slaughter its vaccinated animals, can the Government give a cast iron assurance that this will not be the case in the UK and what are the consequences for our trade with Europe and the rest of the world?

The Government has made it clear that the only vaccination policy that could be deployed is a selective vaccination of cattle in the hot spot areas of North Cumbria and Devon. The Chief Scientist has said that this would be a supplement to the current slaughter policy.

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