Scots angry after bluetongue breach

A violation of bluetongue regulations has left two Dutch animals stranded in Scotland and prompted calls from farming leaders for European legislation to be tightened and properly enforced by all member states.

The incident occurred after six Dutch dairy heifers were legally transported to Scotland en route to the Republic of Ireland. When the animals arrived at the port of Larne in Northern Ireland, it was discovered that two of the animals had been pregnant before being vaccinated against bluetongue, breaching the European requirements on movements between Europe’s BTV8 zone and a BTV-free zone like Ireland. As a result, the two animals were refused entry to Ireland and shipped back on the ferry to Stranraer in Scotland.

NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Miller described the situation as an “absolute mess” and urged the Scottish government to send the animals back to the Netherlands, adding that the incident would never have happened if the Dutch authorities had properly policed movements in the first place.

“If member states like the Netherlands, with a history of bluetongue disease, are failing to implement existing bluetongue movement controls, then it underlines the urgent need for stronger European regulations that will protect a country like Scotland from getting this devastating disease,” he said.

“That would hopefully include rules that would prevent the transit of animals from bluetongue areas through Scotland to elsewhere.”

Miller went on to describe the situation as another example of “existing EU requirements on bluetongue breaking down” and added that extra vigilance against the disease is needed, now that the midges’ inactive period is coming to an end.

“Sticking by the voluntary ban on livestock imports into Scotland is the main way of protecting the nation against importing the disease and we welcome the fact that Scottish livestock producers are backing the ban,” he said.

The Scottish government will convene a meeting of its bluetongue stakeholders next week and Miller said the Union will be pushing for Scotland to pursue tighter European rules and urge other stakeholders to reinforce their support for the voluntary import ban.

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