The farmers who imported bluetongue infected rams from France last week should slaughter them immediately to protect the rest of the UK ruminant population, according to Paul Roger of the Sheep Vet Society.

Mr Roger told Farmers Weekly, that while DEFRA was unwilling to slaughter the tups as there was no legal basis to, the farmers concerned should act responsibly and kill them to ensure they do pass the virus to the local midge population. “It is highly likely that due to the massive uptake of vaccination in the south east the local midge population is naïve to the virus. These animals pose a huge risk of infection and as such should be euthanised as soon as possible.”

BLUETONGUE VACCINE

DEFRA is acting irresponsibly in not slaughtering the rams and is showing a complete lack of leadership in its handling of the current scenario. “DEFRA is failing to recognise the severity of this situation and is leaving it to industry to sort the problem. These rams present a huge additional risk factor to every animal in the UK we have to avoid any further infection of the native midge population.”

He also warned other farmers considering importing stock from bluetongue affected areas of mainland Europe to think carefully before proceeding. “Of course I recognise these farmers haven’t intentionally imported disease, but there can be no guarantee that stock in bluetongue infected areas are disease free, so the utmost caution must be exercised. Anyone considering importing animals should undertake a full risk assessment with their own vet. They will be better off waiting until there is a reduction in midge activity after the onset of winter, although there will still be a risk even then,” he added.