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New body to fight veterinary epidemics

[Thursday 02 April 2009]

THE Government is to set up as new independent body of experts to fight future epidemics of animal disease like foot and mouth – a decision which to many country folk will be seen as an admission of past failures by the present, civil service run regime.

Decisions about how to handle animal diseases would move to an independent body under proposals announced for consultation this week by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today.

Mr. Benn said the proposals would see a new independent board established to make decisions about animal health policy and delivery, made up of members with knowledge, experience and skills in the livestock industry, animal health science and welfare and relevant public health, consumer and wildlife issues.

In a disease outbreak, key decisions such as movement controls will be made by the chair and chief executive of the new organisation, on the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer.

Mr. Benn said:”"Livestock owners are worst affected by disease outbreaks and they also benefit from disease control, where their livestock might otherwise become infected.

"It's right that they should be more involved in making decisions about how we prevent and handle those diseases, and contribute to the costs of collective action to tackle disease threats.”

In the past, there has been a series of failures which brought widespread criticism of the environment department Defra and its predecessor the Ministry of Agricultrure. They go back as far back as BSE “mad cow” disease via the horrific foot and mouth debacle six years ago, a more recent F&M leak from a Government laboratory in Sussex, and the avian ‘flu outbreak at a Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Norfolk.

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