MARCH 23, 2008: An increasing shortage of farm vets means Britain would struggle to cope with a future foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Vets specialising in the treatment of large animals were crucial during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, but more and more vets appear to be choosing to go into small animal practice.Most students now leaving veterinary college are women and many are choosing to work with small animals instead. Better hours and pay are said to be part of the attraction.The decline has been blamed in part on television programmes like Vets in Practice.A committee of MPs says if the situation worsens rural areas would be left vulnerable when dealing with another outbreak of the disease.The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has called on the government to provide incentives for students to become large animal vets.Statistics from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in June showed that 10 years ago, half of all vet students wanted to do farm work, but that figure is now just one in 10.

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