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More Defra cuts threaten disease research - CLA

[Thursday 26 October 2006]
foot and mouth disease sign
Will cuts make disease
outbreaks more likely?

NEWS which leaked yesterday suggesting that Government cuts will bite deep into veterinary research at a time of ever-threatening animal diseases has appalled members of the Country Land and Business Association.

It has been well known for some weeks that Chancellor Gordon Brown has slashed the budget for the rural affairs agency, Defra, but the cuts have been largely blamed on sorting out the chaos left by the Rural Payments Agency in failing to pay farm subsidies because of a massive bureaucratic tangle.

But it was revealed yesterday that the cuts will also hit veterinary research at a time when diseases like bird flu and foot and mouth disease - which had such a devastating impact on the Yorkshire Dales in 2001 - are endemic in some parts of the world and could all-too-easily be transported to Britain.

The EU has imposed swingeing fines for the late payment of the subsidies and the whole dreary mess is said to have cost Defra £177.5 million, which has largely been blamed on admin blunders. But now it has emerged that to pay the fines, Defra will be raiding its veterinary research budget.

"The cuts to those agencies tasked with essential applied research, diagnosis and surveillance on livestock diseases are of huge concern, especially at this time of uncertainty for animal diseases such as bovine TB and avian Influenza," said Miss Dorothy Fairburn, Yorkshire Director of the CLA.

The cuts to those agencies tasked with essential applied research, diagnosis and surveillance on livestock diseases are of huge
concern

Dorothy Fairburn - CLA

"The consequences of another animal disease outbreak, like avian Influenza, which could otherwise be prevented by surveillance and early management, would be catastrophic for Yorkshire's food suppliers and farmers. Game shooting is a key income source in rural areas and this too would be affected. This is the very time of year that surveillance, a responsibility of the State Veterinary Service, should be maximised as migratory birds are on the move and the risk is at its highest.

"The Government has suggested that the majority of the overspend is due to accountancy rule changes yet figures from the recently published report from the National Audit Office, suggest that £177.5 million may be attributed to the RPA mess," concluded Miss Fairburn.

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