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The NFU has put a series of questions to the Government on the use of vaccination in the fight against foot and mouth as discussions on the vexed issue continue.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "At the moment there is too little reliableinformation available to enable farmers to make an informed decision.

"Without full and proper answers to all our questions, farmers are effectively being asked to take a leap of faith.

"The use of vaccination could have long-term damaging consequences. There is a possibility it could actually spark more outbreaks and it is highly likely that it will delay the resumption of exports considerably.

"Farmers are so desperate to save herds and flocks they want every avenue to be explored. We need firm answers to the questions we have asked if we are to be in a position to resolve this situation."

Among the key questions the NFU has put to Government are: * How does the situation differ now from when previous advice was issued by the Government suggesting vaccination was not the best route? * Will vaccination prolong the course of foot and mouth disease? * How do we prove that foot and mouth disease is eliminated from a vaccinated area when treated cattle will have foot and mouth antibodies? * What proportion of cattle will the vaccine fail to protect?
* After vaccination, can farmers safely re-stock with other animals? * Does MAFF have sufficient 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 willthe Government act as a purchaser?

* Will the Government compensate Cumbrian farmers if they receive lower prices because of reduced demand or no market? * How can the Government explain that vaccination is the correct policy in some areas of the country but not in others?

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.

Mr Gill added: "We will continue talking to the Minister and scientific advisors to look at whether our questions can be answered fully.

"There is a strong need for farmers to work with and co-operate with the Government to stamp out this disease. That remains everyone's priority."

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