Over six months ago the British government came close to vaccinating limited numbers of livestock across the UK in a bid to curb the spread of foot and mouth.

Limited vaccination was agreed at a high-level Whitehall meeting, but then the plan was vetoed however after opposition from the food industry, according to revelations made yesterday by the former minister of agriculture, Nick Brown.

Minutes from the meeting were revealed earlier this year by UK newspaper, The Guardian.

Speaking of the BBC‘s North of Westminster programme, Brown sidestepped direct criticism of the government’s policy during the foot and mouth crisis but during his time in office he has come close to questioning the disease control strategy, and has hinted that it should have been tougher.

There was, for instance, a compelling argument for vaccination immediately after the disease broke out, he said: “I explored it very fully indeed.

“The key difficulty was that there was no guarantee that the public would buy the milk from vaccinated animals or eat the meat from cattle which had been vaccinated. The retailers said there is consumer resistance, we will not stock the product.”

Brown’s comments have come as Devon county council publishes the findings of the first unofficial inquiry today. The inquiry lambastes the government’s “lamentable” handling of foot and mouth and comments on the “carnage by computer” and “bungled culls” ordered by insensitive “and even belligerent” operatives.

In the report, Professor Ian Mercer criticised the new Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for failing to take part and hold its own public investigation into foot and mouth. Defra is also criticised for its indifference to the difficulties facing rural communities.

Particularly, Mercer speaks of the huge pyres built to dispose of the 5m animals slaughtered during the crisis (the majority of which were healthy): “The crisis that a major outbreak generates is not an excuse for the government and its agencies to override the welfare of individuals or communities or to ignore the long-established rules for the management of the environment.”

After leaving the Ministry of Agriculture, Brown has taken on a more junior post in the Department of Work and Pensions. Political allies have noted that he deserves more recognition for his work during the crisis, and that he has been badly treated by Downing Street.