European vets have attacked the UK’s strategy for vaccinating against bluetongue, claiming it will be ineffective, random and unmonitored.

The comments follow news last week that the UK’s voluntary approach had failed to win approval from the EU commission and would therefore not qualify for EU funding.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which represents 43 veterinary organisations from 36 European countries, says the UK plans “fail to guarantee an optimal protection of the animals against the disease”.

“In the UK, vaccination of susceptible animals against bluetongue will be completely voluntary and farmers will have to bear all costs,” said a statement. “All animal owners will have to decide whether to vaccinate some, or all, of their animals – or not.

Keeping track

“If opting for vaccination, they need to contact their veterinarian for a prescription, buy the vaccine and ensure that it is properly administered. In the end, it will be unclear what percentage of the animal population was vaccinated, when the animals were vaccinated and if this was carried out correctly.”

If animal owners decided not to vaccinate, their animals ran the risk of contracting the disease with all the consequences for health and welfare. Additional problems would occur if animals that were believed to have been vaccinated became sick.

According to the FVE President Walter Winding, the UK approach “was probably driven by a strong desire to cut costs, and has little to do with animal health and welfare”.

“Irrespective of the disease outbreaks the UK has faced over recent years, it continues to cut budgets and to reduce its Animal Health Services, something that goes completely against the new EU Community Animal Health Strategy, which focuses on prevention rather than cure.”

Voluntary approach

But British Veterinary Association president Nick Blayney said the FVE had failed to understand that the situation in the UK was different from the rest of Europe.

“Our vaccination strategy was drawn up painstakingly by the stakeholder group,” he told FWi. “In terms of logistics and economics, it was preferable to adopt a voluntary approach.”

He regretted that the BVA, which is a member of the FVE, was not consulted on the content of the organisation’s statement.

*For more on this story, see Farmers Weekly on Friday (14 March).