Country pubs, hotels and restaurants are losing millions of pounds because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Tourism chiefs complain the industry, which is worth £63bn a year, is being crippled to protect livestock exports worth just £1.2bn a year.

The English Tourist Council says business is about 75% below normal. Howard Christie, who runs Cumbria's 54-bed Wasdale Head Inn, had just one couple staying at the weekend.

He reckons he has already lost £26,000 of business with cancellations from the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.

Another devastated hotel owner in Devon simply left his keys and fled, telling a friend: "This is the final straw."

The Observer 11/03/01 page 1, page 5

The Independent on Sunday 11/03/01 page 6