The foot and mouth epidemic is rapidly becoming a national crisis. This week we ask: How do you think the outbreak is being handled?
I clearly remember the day we had our farm dispersal sale in 1988 as being one of the most distressing days of my life. The silence (and sense of emptiness) that was left when all the sheep and cattle had been sold was deafening. For these farmers to have their life's work ended by the pulling of a trigger must be devastating. The Government has acted swiftly and firmly and I can see little else it could have done other than panic measures that would have brought the country to a complete standstill. With rural issues, the Government has often shown a total lack of understanding and care.
However, on this issue, it has shown some compassion - but the cynical among us may say that is because election time is looming. The style and nature of modern farming is to blame for this outbreak being so widespread, with cattle taken the length of the country to be bought/sold, slaughtered and processed. A more sustainable system would be cattle reared, slaughtered and, most importantly, consumed locally.
But the promotion and adoption of such 'sustainable' farming is down to the consumer, with the pound in his or her pocket.
Rob Andrew, chief engineer, Cornwall
Trying to separate the emotive debate from the scientific facts has been very difficult for the 'man in the street'. The outbreak was detected quickly at the Essex abattoir, which supports the idea that the diagnostic skills available at large establishments are inevitably better than at individual farms. The tracing of animals that had contact with the initial outbreak also appears to have been successful, reassuring consumers of the traceability of animals within the food chain. The key need now appears to be getting appropriately trained people to address the culling and burning of infected herds/flocks. I would have thought that the army could have been used before now - MAFF doesn't have enough resources of its own. The one mistake that I would comment on was the transporting of animals back to their farms at the start of the outbreak because the abattoirs refused to take the animals.
This increased the risk of cross-infection risk which is now leading to the slaughter of thousands of animals that might be healthy.
Ian MacGillivray, 43, project manager, Inverness
Vaccination should be an option. The argument against is that Britain will be branded as a country with foot and mouth, affecting exports.
However, it is now a fact that Britain has foot and mouth and it is not under control. The crisis has been handled very poorly by a cavalier government with both eyes on a May general election. The money that has been built up in government coffers will end up paying for this mess rather than being spent on schools and hospitals. Will we hear this in the election manifestos? I don't think so.
Paul Kelly, 30, site engineer, Manchester
I do feel that the logistics of culling and disposal could easily have been handled more efficiently, but I am an engineer and not a vet or a farmer.
Jim Goodbrand, 52, project engineer, West Sussex