NFU President Ben Gill today implored journalists and film crews to stay away from farms because irresponsible visits into the countryside risk spreading foot and mouth disease.

Mr Gill said media must not ignore warnings issued to the rest of the public by the Ministry of Agriculture that they should postpone unnecessary visits that might bring them into contact with livestock farms.

He said: "I have been horrified this morning to see pictures of film crews on farms in the latest area to have been restricted in Tyne and Wear area.

"Like the rest of society, they should not be travelling unnecessarily anywhere in the countryside, let alone into the restricted areas. There is no special treatment for anyone.

"I know journalists have a responsibility to report to the rest of society the dire situation we are facing with this disease.

"But if these irresponsible visits continue journalists, photographers and film crews will undoubtedly help to spread the disease. Then they will not just be reporting the story - they will become part of the story."

He stressed that there are no implications for the human food chain from foot and mouth but people can spread the disease on their clothing, shoes and on vehicles.