THE foot and mouth epidemic rolls on remorselessly. Millions of animals, the majority perfectly healthy, are being slaughtered needlessly.

Our politicians seem to have no real solution except mass killing. Surely, in these days of scientific advancement a cure could be found.

Indeed, it seems one exists already. The Masai herdsmen of Kenya treat their sick cattle with the bark of certain trees and solutions of herbs. One tribesman said: "Your sick cattle can be cured. Those responsible for having them shot are cruel and wicked people -- they should be shot too."

Could it be that there is a sinister long-term motive behind these useless massacres? As long ago as 1998 European Union Agricultural Ministers were quoted as saying that the long term plan of the EU was to abolish livestock farming in Britain and convert it into areas of arable or crop-growing only.

So is the epidemic being used as an excuse to slaughter our herds and flocks? Is our livestock industry to go the same way as our fishing, leaving behind a shattered rural economy, a desolate countryside and the end of a traditional way of life?

THOMAS HOWARTH, Fowler Height Close, Blackburn.