Up to two million lambs face slaughter as the UK government is expected to announce plans today to destroy the surplus of lambs which farmers cannot export because of the export ban imposed after the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Farmers cannot afford to rear sheep that they then cannot sell, so a further cull appears inevitable.

Food Minster Lord Whitty is expected to tell a National Farmers’ Union conference today that the government will buy up some of the lambs, slaughter them and put them in cold storage. There will then be an attempt to sell the meat in Britain, reports the BBC, but most of the meat will probably have to be destroyed.

Ominously, the number of new cases of foot and mouth per day has risen from the three-per-day average of a few weeks ago. Seven new cases were confirmed yesterday [Wednesday] and eight on Tuesday. More than 80,000 sheep in Cumbria, where five of yesterday’s cases were reported, are being tested for signs of the disease, and more than 5,000 sheep have been culled in the Brecon Beacons.

A contingency plan for vaccination has been approved, but as yet no decision has been made to go ahead with wide-scale vaccination. The BBC reported a spokeswoman from the Department of Farming and Rural Affairs as saying: “Vaccination has always been an option, [but] professional advice so far is that it won’t help at the moment.”