As the legal eagles prepare to do battle it may come too late for some who are facing financial crisis because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Lairage owner Peter Bartley described his situation starkly. “My business is dead in the water. I could lose everything I own,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“We have been exporting 1500 animals each week from our Yorkshire site, paying hundreds of farmers a decent price of £80 to £100 a calf. But now I’ve gone over the edge of a cliff financially. One day we were booking in 700-800 calves, the next it had all fallen apart. It’s all gone.

“I face losing anything up to £1m, including my house, if the ban goes on for the rest of the year. I have already had to lay off three workers and of course I have nothing to bring money in to pay the rent for the lairage building.”

Mr Bartley explained that he had an agreement to rent the building for five years which he was tied into. “I have spent £45,000 in the past 15 months on the premises ensuring that it reaches the best standard. Our bio-security is the best there is. We have passed the toughest scrutiny and come out with nothing but praise from veterinary surgeons and Trading Standards.”