Trading Standards and police officials are to step up surveillance over the illegal movements of livestock following reports from within the farming community that foot-and-mouth restrictions are being flouted. 

Staffordshire’s Trading Standards officers and police mounted road-side checks on main arterial roads on Tuesday (7 August) after receiving calls from farmers concerned over illegal movements, explained Tony Shore, the authority’s animal health team leader. “We are working closely with the farming community but those who abuse restrictions are putting the whole industry in jeopardy.” 

Anyone caught moving livestock illegally face a fine of up to £5000 and a jail term of up to six months, he explained. “We take this very seriously. Anyone with information can call the team and we will respond. Likewise, if anyone within the county is unsure of the restrictions and needs to know what they can or cannot do then call the team on 01785-277875 and we will advise them,” added Mr Shore. 

The incidence is not isolated to the county. Officials in the neighbouring counties of Cheshire and Derbyshire have confirmed to FARMERS WEEKLY they were also following up reports on illegal movements. 

Neil Wrench, lead officer with Cheshire County Council, confirmed officials arrived on at one site to find one vehicle and driver with an apparent intention of moving stock following a tip-off. “The presence of our officers ensured the person concerned decided to change their mind.”

In a separate incident a vehicle suspected of carrying livestock was pursued down a section of the M6 motorway following another tip-off, explained Mr Wrench.  “I would highlight to farmers we intend to carry out a number of spot checks in the coming days and weeks.

“While we are hopeful licenses to move livestock direct to slaughter may come soon, checks will continue and anyone found flouting the law and using any relaxation as camouflage for illegal movements will be reported and considered for prosecution.”

Despite this outbreak of foot-and-mouth being confined at present to a single county (this time Surrey) – similar to the 1965 outbreak rather than nationwide as in the 2001 outbreak – David Collier, NFU regional director for the West Midlands is appealing for patience.

“While I understand the frustration felt it really is a matter of producers being patient and awaiting the hopeful relaxation of movement restrictions that we are all working towards. There is no justification for doing otherwise,” said Mr Collier.

Illegal movements are not the only concern within the region. Biosecurity in the Midlands is patchy, warn input suppliers, with many producers having little or no disinfection facilities for vehicles or tradesmen in place almost a week after the first case being confirmed in Surrey.

Mr Shore wants that rectified immediately. “Biosecurity is vital even in what may be described a peace-time. It’s crucial and commonsense, but I remain surprised that you will see farmers walk around foot dips put in place in markets rather than go through them. Producers have to recognise the potential damage.”

Keep up to date with our foot and mouth special report page