3 November 1995

Reply to sheep scab document urges Browning

By Rebecca Austin

MAFFs consultation document on how the sheep industry should deal with scab will be available before Christmas.

This was promise of junior farm minister Angela Browning at the British Veterinary Associations seminar on sheep scab last week (see p44).

Mrs Browning is urging the industry to reply to it. "Sheep scab is important to everybody involved with sheep. It is a serious welfare issue," she said.

Treatments were available to allow farmers to deal with scab, but it only took one farmer not to treat for the infection to spread – an additional problem for those grazing common land.

Mrs Browning hinted that responsibility to deal with the disease will be left with the farmer.

"Actions of irresponsible and careless owners can be influenced and it is increasingly clear some are not treating it properly through poor management and lack of knowledge of what scab is. Some are still not listening to MAFF advice or peers in the industry.

"There is a need to do more through new legislation which will force the whole industry to deal with the problem. At the end of the day it is still farmers working with vets who are responsible for the welfare of sheep. Any legislation will reinforce this."

At the same meeting, she announced that MAFF has awarded £500,000 to Edinburghs Institute of Occupational Medi- cine for research into the possible long term human health effects of organophosphorus (OP) dips.

The contract starts this month and lasts for three-and-a-half years. The findings will then be referred to the Veterinary Products Committee, which gives independent scientific advice to the government and the Health and Safety Executive on issues concerning veterinary medicines.

The certificate of competence in the safe use of sheep dips, which governs who can by OP sheep dips, will be reviewed at the end of this year.

"I regard this as a matter of urgency and expect results in early spring at the latest," said Mrs Browning.