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Talks between NFU President Ben Gill and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown went on late into the evening yesterday as the NFU pressed home that the situation on many farms is at breaking point.

An announcement on new measures to relieve some of the many welfare problems is expected tomorrow* - and farmers cannot hold out any longer than this, said Mr Gill.

He said: "Thousands of sheep about to give birth stranded miles away from their farms and the disastrous backlog of animals on pig farms are causing farmers dire worries.

"We need a decision on what is going to happen on this score - anything elsewould be inhumane."

He reiterated that the process of both slaughtering and destroying infected animals must be speeded up now.

Mr Gill said: "It is absolutely essential for disease control reasons that we slaughter animals as soon as foot and mouth disease is spotted.

"But the emotional heartache being caused to farmers forced to wait days before their slaughtered animals are destroyed or removed is also intolerable.

"We called for further rendering and other disposal facilities to be announced to take the pressure off the situation. We also called for more vets to be drafted in."

He added: "Our talks went on for several hours and we left the Minister inno doubt that there is a need for the whole process to be speeded up if we are to have any hope of getting ahead of this disastrous outbreak."

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