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A new RSPCA initiative aimed at helping farmers cope with all the extra animals they have to care for during the foot and mouth crisis has been welcomed by the NFU.

The animal charity has launched a scheme to provide feed, shelter, bedding and other vital supplies to farmers whose animals need it most. Eighty RSPCA inspectors have also been removed from normal duties to help tackle the fallout from the crisis.

"This action will help many desperate farmers whose animals are locked in by movement restrictions and other disease controls," said NFU Animal Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Neil Cutler. "They need all the assistance they can get to help alleviate overcrowding and feed problems."

The RSPCA says it has already received a range of offers of help, including donations of hay, wood chippings and transport.

Anybody who wants to help the RSPCA scheme, or farmers who are seeking help, should contact their regional RSPCA office on 08705 555 999.

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