9 March 2001

EUputs block on auctions

LIVESTOCK auctions and fairs have been banned throughout the EU for two weeks as Brussels steps up the effort to stop foot-and-mouth disease spreading beyond the UK.

An EU-wide movement ban has also been imposed on susceptible species, (cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer), except for animals going direct from farm to slaughter. Some farm to farm transfers may be allowed, however, subject to government authorisation.

In addition, EU vets have agreed to extend the ban on exports of British animals and livestock produce until Mar 27. It was due to run out today, (Friday).

European farmer organisations have welcomed the move, even though there have been no confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth on the continent.

Irish reaction

Irish Farmers Association representative, Raymond OMalley, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the decision. "It shows that the commission is taking foot-and-mouth extremely seriously."

Most of what Brussels was after was already in place in Ireland, he added. This week Dublin introduced a strict permit system for movements from farms to abattoirs, in an attempt to stamp out other livestock trade by rogue hauliers. "So far this has been going well, though for smaller farmers, who can only part-fill lorries, it does put up the cost."

Another scheme was put in place on Wednesday, to allow the movement of ewes to lambing grounds and other "genuine welfare cases." Permits can be obtained from District Veterinary Offices and the Gardai (police) will be notified.

For the UK, it is likely the Brussels ruling will trigger an automatic extension of the movement restriction order, which is due to expire on March 16.

Measures taken so far by the UK to contain foot and mouth were "strongly appreciated" by the EU vets meeting this week, who also congratulated other member states for their rapid response.

But they described the use of vaccines as a further means of control, as "disproportionate and unnecessary". The decision to abandon vaccination in 1991 had saved the EU over 1bn euros (£630m) and had allowed its livestock producers to export to countries which insisted on foot and mouth disease free status.