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Drive Against Bluetongue Must Continue

[Thursday 14 August 2008]

The vaccination drive against Bluetongue disease must continue across Northern England despite the decision by the Scots to delay their vaccination programme until later in the year.

This is the message from the North East and North West NFU, whose members are likely to be able to start vaccinating at the end of the month in a bid to protect a Northern livestock industry worth nearly £300m.

“Calls for the vaccination programme to be halted in Northern England until after the Autumn sales make no sense at all,” said North East regional livestock board chairman and Rochester farmer, Malcolm Corbett.

“With only Northumberland and Cumbria remaining outside the Bluetongue Protection Zone, it would mean imposing a ‘voluntary’ border across Northern England – to the detriment of both farmers and auction marts.

“It would also put English farms at risk of contracting this very serious disease at a time when we are seeing the number of Bluetongue cases soar on the continent, with 1500 new cases confirmed in France in the last ten days and the first 2008 case in the Netherlands.

“There’s no doubt that extending the Protection Zone up to the Scottish border will create havoc, as Scotland has said it will not allow in any unvaccinated animals from a Protection Zone – even animals destined straight for slaughter.

What must be remembered is that it is not just English farmers that will suffer but the Scottish meat processing sector who source large quantities of animals from Northern England.

Russell Bowmen - NFU County Chairman for Cumbria

“However while it’s true that animals would normally be moving to Scotland at this time of year, it’s also true that others move south and it’s unacceptable to contemplate moving large quantities of unvaccinated animals into areas where vaccination has already taken place.

“So the challenge is really to try and persuade Scotland to speed up its vaccination programme so that everyone is in the same zone as quickly as possible. As a matter of urgency we also need them to relax their restriction on the movement of animals over the border for slaughter. This is something they could do very quickly and would go some way to easing the situation.”

NFU County Chairman for Cumbria, Russell Bowmen, said the tragedy is that as usual it would be farmers paying the price for administrative discord.

“It has been obvious for months – ever since Scotland announced its decision to impose a compulsory vaccination programme later this year – that we would have a period of time where cross-border trade would be severely compromised,” he said.

“With a couple of weeks to go until vaccine is likely to be available for Northumberland and Cumbria, I would urge the two governments in England and Scotland to work together to try and resolve this situation before our struggling livestock industry is hit with another financial hammer blow.

“What must be remembered is that it is not just English farmers that will suffer but the Scottish meat processing sector who source large quantities of animals from Northern England. So it is in the interests of both countries to sort this mess out!”

With only a short time left before the Bluetongue Protection Zone is likely to be extended, both chairmen urged farmers to think through their trading plans and if possible move their animals ahead of any change to the zone.

“We realise this will not be practical or possible for everyone,” said Malcolm, “but it’s important we make the best possible use of the advance notice we have of when the border with Scotland is likely to close.

“That said, of course increased freedom of movement under the terms of a general licence will kick in just 60 days after animals are successfully vaccinated. Even earlier movements are allowed but are subject to strict conditions that include a pre-movement test. It’s also important to remember that vaccinated animals moving into Scotland will need to have a veterinary certificate of vaccination, so farmers intending to trade with Scotland will have to involve their vet in their vaccination programme.”

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