Speaking to farmers and members of the press at Cranleigh Show today, Conservative leader David Cameron said there are very serious questions for the Government to answer.

“If it turns out that the virus was released either from the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright or from the next-door lab at Merial – which, by the way, is inspected and licensed by the Government – it will be astonishing news, because the organisations responsible for stopping things like foot and mouth will effectively be responsible for starting it.

In a sympathetic tone for the agricultural industry, he said farmers up and down the country are going to be angry because they have done masses to improve their own biosecurity and they are all suffering at the moment, apparently because of mistakes made at a laboratory which is meant to stop foot and mouth.“While the movement ban is absolutely right… we shouldn’t forget that the ban on moving all animals around the country is not pain-free.

“It means abattoirs are closed for business but they still have to pay their staff. It means that markets and auctions are completely out of business while the ban continues. Many farmers who need to move stock can’t do that.

“Farmers will be suffering from the movement ban. They will support it – they know it is right – but if they are suffering because others have made mistakes, they have every right to be angry.”