Bluetongue export restrictions lifted
Export restrictions on sheep and cattle currently in place because of bluetongue disease will be lifted, Defra has announced.
It was confirmed today that animals exported from Great Britain to bluetongue-free countries, mainly the Republic of Ireland, will no longer require vaccinations or need to meet any other bluetongue requirements.
The bluetongue-free status will take effect on 5 July.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “This is great news for farmers – and it’s an achievement by farmers too. This is the result of a strong and successful partnership between government, farmers and vets to eradicate this serious disease.
“Our new Animal Health and Welfare Board for England is building on this partnership approach to create a better way to tackle animal diseases. There have been no new cases of bluetongue in Britain for two years, but farmers and vets need to remain vigilant and continue to be careful of animals they import.”
Under current EU legislation, farmers will no longer be able to vaccinate for the disease once bluetongue-free status is delared. However, the government is pressing for changes to allow for the use of the vaccination.
The NFU has cautiously welcomed the news.
NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said: “Ideally the NFU would have wished to see changes to the EU bluetongue directive that would have allowed for vaccination in a free area prior to this change being made in Great Britain.
“The NFU welcomes the Agricultural Minister’s assurance that Defra will continue to press for changes at a European level in order to allow farmers to use vaccination when bluetongue zones are not in place. We will also do all we can through our office in Brussels to ensure the voice of British farmers is heard on how important the option of vaccination is in keeping us bluetongue disease-free.”
The restrictions were imposed in 2007, after the first UK case of bluetongue. The last reported case was in 2008.