DEFRA has announced an independent review of livestock movement rules, to see whether they are actually increasing, rather than reducing, the risk of disease outbreaks.

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said: “The rules applicable to the identification and movement of cattle and sheep have existed in their present form since 2000 and 2003 respectively.

“They exist to help meet the department’s top threat, an outbreak of livestock disease. 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, whilst carrying out our obligations under EU law.”

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

It will make recommendations on the degree to which current 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 out of scope of the review is consideration of the length of movement standstills applicable to any species. This is because the six day standstill periods were introduced in 2003 following extensive work to identify the costs and benefits of having such an approach.

DEFRA has said that this work resulted in the recommendation that a standstill period of 20 days provided the best disease protection, but that a six day standstill period provided worthwhile protection against the spread of disease and these results are still valid.