THE RSPCA admitted last night there was little it could do to prevent the slaughter of animals at leisure and visitor attractions, as the epidemic continues to spread.

Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell, who covers North Yorkshire, County Durham and Cleveland, said: "As far as individuals deciding what to do with their animals, it is really up to them.

"All we would ask is that people consider all the options carefully first. The time that we would choose to step in would be if a cull was not carried out humanely."

Some leisure operators, such as Alton Towers, Staffordshire, which operates small farms for the public, have chosen to slaughter healthy animals such as pigs and goats for fear they could catch the disease.

Yesterday, Oasis Holiday Villages, in Penrith, Cumbria, said it had decided to put down three goats and four pigs kept in an "animal corner".

If the animals had fallen to foot-and-mouth, the village would have been quarantined and the site could have faced closure.

A spokeswoman said the safety and comfort of the guests remained paramount, as well as more than 1,000 jobs.

Raby Castle, near Staindrop, County Durham, has 400 deer on the estate, as well as cattle and more than 400 sheep in Upper Teesdale.

General manager Stephen Rochford said he believed it was barbaric to kill healthy animals.

He said: "We wouldn't even consider doing something like this."

Beamish Museum, which has closed during the outbreak, has no plans to cull its animals, which include cattle and pigs.