Farmers in large parts of the country will be able to move their livestock to market from next Thursday, 4 October. This is subject to there being no changes to the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) situation.
Defra has decided to permit this easing of restrictions in the low-risk area, subject to stringent bio-security measures. The current control measures in the FMD risk area remain in place.
Hilary Benn said: "We have always taken a risk-based and staged approach to movement restrictions. The decision to announce today that livestock markets will be allowed from next Thursday follows extensive discussion with stakeholders, and I know will be of great benefit to the farming and food chain industry in easing economic and welfare pressures. It will also allow time for preparations for markets to take place and for the required biosecurity measures to be applied."
A temporary control zone in the Maidenhead area has been lifted following negative laboratory results on a farm where FMD was suspected. Other tests have shown that the strain of FMD found on the seventh infected premises is the same strain as that found on the other premises in Surrey.
In Suffolk a fifth case of bluetongue has been confirmed on a fourth premises near Burstall. This animal will be culled. Defra has sent this information to the OIE, the world organisation for animal health.
As yet, an outbreak has not been confirmed but epidemiological investigations are continuing to establish whether the disease is circulating between animals and midges in the UK.
Discussions with stakeholders are continuing about the implications should an outbreak of bluetongue be declared by the chief veterinary officer. Any action will be in line with the UK bluetongue control strategy, published in August, but will also take account of the current FMD restrictions.
Debby Reynolds, chief veterinary officer said: "Obviously, we must face the very real risk that bluetongue could, already be actively circulating in this country. It will be some time before we have the scientific evidence to confirm whether or not this is the case. Meanwhile as soon as the first bluetongue case was confirmed on Saturday, we have taken all the necessary measures on a precautionary basis. While our investigations continue it remains essential for animal keepers to, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions immediately. Livestock owners should examine their animals twice a day."