15 September 1995

Legislation now to help in fight

GOVERNMENT must introduce new legislation to help the sheep industry to control scab.

The plea comes from the Sheep Scab Action Group, co-ordinated by the National Sheep Association. John Thorley, NSA chief executive, says existing legislation is ambiguous and must be reviewed.

But he stressed the group did not want a return to compulsory dipping. "The government decided in 1992 to deregulate the control measures for scab. They started the process and then I think they realised the disease was on the increase so they stopped de-regulation mid-way," said Mr Thorley.

"That is why we now have such ambiguities in the law where technically scab is still notifiable but none of the rules downstream is in place any more to force people to treat their stock."

He said there should be some means to force any producer who currently ignores scab in his flock, that could then be transmitted to neighbouring flocks, to treat his infected animals.

One area of concern is on common land where a number of farmers have grazing rights. "If all but one of those farmers decided to clear the common and treat their stock against scab, then either they or trading standards officials should have the legal power to force the one who refused," he said.

"It is these persistent offenders, who are reluctant to take the necessary measures to rid their own flocks of the disease who leave us with this potential reservoir of scab all the time."

The group also wants MAFF to consider making it illegal to sell scab-infected sheep. Mr Thorley said the current position was unclear. "If selling infected sheep could be made a very serious criminal act then that would raise everyones awareness overnight of their responsibilities." &#42