Rural vets working in the areas worst hit by FMD are facing the possibility of job losses.

More than three million farm animals have been slaughtered so far and, in areas such asCumbria, the Welsh Borders, Herefordshire and Devon, there are few animals left for agricultural vets to treat.

Lesley Barwise-Munro, spokesperson for the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), said: “Vets who have been worst affected are those in areas where there has been a massive loss of livestock. Some vets temporarily left practices and became self-employed to help with MAFF work, but found there were no jobs to return to.”

David Tyson, president of the British Veterinary Association, confirmed that equine vets were also affected.

“Equine practices have certainly been affected by the knock-on effect of FMD,” he said. “Events have been cancelled and horses have been confined. As a result referral work has been significantly less than usual.

“A lot of rural practises are not solely equestrian and will have a significant farm side to them so that the practice will be affected as a whole. Some are down to a third or a quarter of their normal turnover and these lossescan’t be sustained for very long.”