31 October 2001
New laws to fight farm diseases

By FWi staff

THE government has unveiled proposals for new legislation to improve its handling of future foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

In a bid to speed up the containment of the disease, the Animal Health Bill would force farmers to comply with orders to slaughter their livestock.

Ministers believe the fight against foot-and-mouth was hampered by farmers who appealed against culls of apparently healthy animals.

The new bill, announced in London on Wednesday (31 October), also contains plans to eradicate the BSE-type disease scrapie in sheep.

Some scientists fear that scrapie could be masking BSE in sheep and ministers want to develop rapid tests to see whether this is the case.

Peter Jinman, a member of the BSE advisory committee, said it was proving difficult to validate the sheep tests because they are so complex.

Ministers may want to review the validation process, especially because the tests are new and there is nothing to compare them with, he said.

It may decide it is being extremely over-cautious, said Mr Jinman.

But my personal view is that you have to be awfully cautious where a whole industry is hanging on the results and peoples health is at stake.

Molecular tests have been used on 465 scrapie-infected sheep brains from the current flock at the governments Veterinary Laboratory Agency.

None of the samples tested positive for BSE.

But the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has warned that it is still not possible to guarantee that sheep are free from BSE.

It wants more technology made available so it can test more sheep in the hope of drawing a conclusion about whether the disease is in sheep.

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