MINISTERS were defeated in the House of Lords over plans to opt for mass slaughter, rather than vaccination, in the event of another foot and mouth outbreak.

Peers voted by 171 to 123 to change the Animal Health Bill to give priority to vaccination - which would avoid a repeat of the killing fields witnessed in last year's outbreak in North Yorkshire.

The National Farmer's Union said vaccination for animals should be an option in future outbreaks but might not always be appropriate. An NFU spokeswoman said: "No outbreak is the same and we cannot afford to be rigidly scripted on what action might be required."

Updated: 09:59 Thursday, October 31, 2002