HUNDREDS of slaughtered animals were dumped on pyres yesterday as the foot-and-mouth epidemic continued to leave communities devastated.

The harrowing scenes at Buckshead Farm, at Evenwood, County Durham, were mirrored at farms across the region as government officials prepared to burn the carcasses of infected and uninfected animals.

At Buckshead Farm, owners Susan and Brian Finch looked on as their flock of 130 sheep and 113 cows were slaughtered and then piled into heaps ready for burning.

Their despair was deepened by the fact their cattle were not diagnosed with the foot-and-mouth disease.

Mrs Finch said: "This is pretty much our whole livelihood that will go up in smoke and is obviously devastating for us.

"The cows were not even infected with the disease, but they had to be slaughtered because they could have come into contact with the sheep.

"What makes it worse is that we have done everything we can to avoid the disease.

"We have stayed on our farms and hoped we would be lucky, so it must have been airborne."