MR David Curry, MP for Skipton and Ripon, has highlighted several inconsistencies in the foot and mouth measures.

One concerns the restriction on the movement of animals close to the farm if they have to pass other animals on the journey.

He has written to Mr Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister, pointing out cases where sheep from different farmers are held in adjacent fields and, in practice, are in constant contact with each other.

"However, even though sheep are in contact across the margins of a field the sheep from one flock are not allowed to go past another flock in the course of using a road," Mr Curry wrote.

"While I understand the logic behind the principle of this, in practice it sometimes defies the reality of the circumstances in which animals are kept."

He also cites the case of a constituent in Masham who applied to MAFF Northallerton for a licence to move sheep across Fearby Road for lambing.

There was a delay and when Northallerton was contacted they said it had been passed to MAFF in Leeds, who in turn said they had not processed the previous day's applications.

Mr Curry also raised the problems of farmers with ewes over wintered away from the holding.

He suggested it should be possible to differentiate between stock on land where they could easily lamb in situ and those ewes on very small parcels of land where there is insufficient ground for lambing and nowhere else to go.

"We forget that until recently ewes were routinely lambed in open air and a fairly rough protection of bales of straw perhaps with a rudimentary roof will suffice in most circumstances," said Mr Curry.

"I can see no reason why these animals should be destroyed," he said, adding that those in the other situation may need "more radical measures."

He addressed the problems faced by other businesses and the increased costs faced by local authorities in tackling the disease.

Finally he joins the calls from many others in asking that MAFF should make information more easily available to farmers, not just on the website.

"Eighty per cent of the farmers in my constituency do not have a computer," he said, "I suspect that many do not even know if they are in an infection zone or not."

l The NFU released a summary of Tuesday's meeting between president Ben Gill and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown.

Mr Gill stressed the importance, both for disease control and farmer relations, of slaughter within 24 hours of confirmation and destruction within a further 24 hours.

MAFF officials reported that their aim was to slaughter within 24 hours of confirmation (60pc of which take place during the first veterinary visit to a suspected farm).

For disease purposes, the gap before removal or destruction was less important, but the need to do so within 24 hours for good farmer relations was understood.

MAFF HQ accepted that the slaughter target was not being reached in some areas and requested the NFU to pass on hard information on delays which they would take up with the local vets.

The NFU representatives undertook to provide full details of delayed slaughter and destruction the next day to assist senior management to investigate problems.

National Pig Association representatives stressed the difficulties of pig farmers arising from the ban on inter-farm movements from breeding to rearing units.

Welfare problems on finishing units in the restricted areas were also growing as movements to slaughter were banned.

The best and cheapest way to deal with welfare problems was to slaughter young pigs as soon as possible.

Mr Gill commented on sheep and cattle welfare problems and urged the Minister to announce decisions on longer movements between farms as soon as possible.

This would enable farmers to manage better and to decide if euthanasia was required. If MAFF faced manpower problems in establishing and operating a welfare movements scheme the NFU would put forward suggestions.

On medium term issues all those present agreed the major problems this year would be those markets greatly affected by loss of exports - sow meat and sheep meat.

Issues such as the use of private storage aids, encouragement of the diversion of New Zealand supplies to other EU markets, and official funding of meat promotion programmes were discussed.

Mr Gill pointed out that with an export ban there was a strong justification for the separation of the UK from the rest of Europe when calculation of the sheep annual premium was done.

On longer term issues the Minister confirmed that he wanted a wide-ranging review of meat import controls and their implementation; farming practices such as swill-feeding; structural issues such as sheep movements and marketings: as well as the implications of world travel, globalisation of trade and modern farming methods.

l The NFU believes the slaughter of foot and mouth affected animals is necessary.

Although most affected adult animals will recover from an acute case of the disease within a month they rarely recover their full productivity.

The effect is most-pronounced in high-grade animals and especially in dairy cattle where the milk yield is depressed through subsequent lactations.

Some recovered animals can also develop a silent carrier state in which the virus can persist for at least nine months in sheep and three years in cattle.

Therefore, it believes, slaughter is the only policy