DEFRA has announced an independent review of livestock movement rules, because of evidence that farmers find them difficult to understand, which may mean they are not working properly.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said the rules existed to help meet the department’s top threat, an outbreak of livestock disease.

But he added: “There is evidence that farmers find them difficult to understand, not least because different rules apply to cattle than to sheep.

They may, therefore, be difficult to operate.

“We need to know whether our policies are having their desired impact.

I have, therefore, commissioned an independent review of our policies in this area, to examine what the impact of our policies has had on farmer behaviour and whether this has increased the risk of disease.

The review will examine whether we could regulate in this area better than we do now, while carrying out our obligations under EU law.”

The review will be carried out by Staffs farmer Bill Madders, who will report back to DEFRA by the end of June 2006.

Mr Madders will make recommendations on the degree to which rules in England and Wales on the movement of cattle, sheep and deer deliver a sufficiently reduced risk of disease, taking account of the need to support the sustainability of the livestock industry.

But the review will not consider the length of movement stand-stills applicable to any species.

The six-day standstill periods were introduced in 2003 after extensive work to identify the costs and benefits of having such an approach.

DEFRA has said that the results of this work are still valid.