Future foot and mouth disease outbreaks will be tackled with the aid of a vaccination programme, but culling infected animals must remain the main weapon in combating the disease said the government.

DEFRA secretary of state Margaret Beckett was responding to two inquiries into last year’s epidemic which concluded that FMD spread far wider than it need have due to the government’s inadequate response.

Beckett told MPs that killing infected animals or those that had come into contact with the virus must remain the main strategy.

However, she added: “In some circumstances, additional action may be needed to control an outbreak. And in that case, emergency vaccination will form part of the control strategy from the start.”

President of the National Farmers’ Union Ben Gill said that all the strategy developments, cultural shift and structural changes should be “implemented, tested, reviewed and updated on a continuing basis”.

He added that the NFU remained “resolutely opposed” to any suggestion that the costs of government disease control programmes should be borne by farmers. And that the government must not shirk its responsibilities in dealing with “an outbreak of exotic animal disease”, due ti its failure to “protect our borders”.