29 March 2002

Slaughter out sheep scrapie

FRANCE has launched a major new programme to eliminate scrapie from the national sheep flock, slaughtering out susceptible animals and breeding from resistant lines.

The k15m (£9.2m) a year plan will involve tests on about 100,000 sheep aged six months and over, on farms where scrapie has been found.

Any sheep found to be susceptible will be destroyed, with farmers compensated at replacement value.

"This will allow us to have a much more precise idea of the real incidence of the disease," says a statement from the ministry of agriculture. It will be backed by an information campaign aimed at farmers and vets.

French agriculture minister, Francois Patriat, also announced a tightening of the countrys specified risk material controls. As from Jul 1, SRMs will have to be removed and destroyed from all sheep over six-months-old, compared with the 12 month "norm" under EU legislation.

Mr Patriat said he would be pressing for this to apply for all EU member states, but for now France would press on with the measure unilaterally.

France is also preparing to improve sheep traceability with a system similar to the EUs cattle passport, in advance of impending legislation from Brussels. &#42