Stock system is near collapse
BRITAINS livestock trading system is on the verge of collapse after ministers backtracked on a decision to allow animal movements between farms.
Industry leaders issued the stark warning after the government revised its thinking on movements and issued a new rule banning gatherings of more than two people on holdings connected with livestock sales. The ban, which applies to all regions regardless of foot-and-mouth status, was pushed through last Friday (Aug 30).
A DEFRA spokesman claimed that the rules had not been changed but merely clarified. Equipment sales are unaffected by the amendment but those gatherings must take place with strict biosecurity measures. The spokesman said. "We just want to make it clear that farm livestock sales are not allowed."
Livestock Auctioneers Association chairman Peter Kingwill said he was disgusted by the decision which came hours after talks with DEFRA junior minister Lord Whitty. He said: "There was no mention of this at all even though we talked about farm sales and moment licences."
Mr Kingwill said nobody wanted to spread F&M. But farm sales were essential, especially for farmers who want to leave the industry in the wake of the disease. He added: "If we are not careful it will soon start raining and we will have a welfare disaster that makes the spring one pale into insignificance."
Lord Whitty is said to have had second thoughts about allowing livestock sales following advice from David King, the governments chief scientific officer. Prof King also urged the government to consider the urgent re-tightening of livestock movement restrictions in a desperate bid to halt the spread of F&M.
An announcement timed for yesterday (Sept 6) was set to ban all livestock movements from at-risk areas unless animals are going to slaughter. The decision would represent a climb-down for the government which only 10 days ago made moves to allow a limited trade in livestock between farms.
Movements of sheep from and within disease-free areas were also expected to be banned unless the animals have been blood-tested. This decision would represent a re-tightening of previous proposals which indicated that blood-testing would not be required in disease-free regions.
The NFU called on the government to indicate clearly what movements it will allow and why as soon as possible. NFU deputy president, Tim Bennett, said a balance must be struck between disease control and the need for movements to alleviate problems for farmers.
"There are in excess of 5m sheep and 1.5m cattle in what DEFRA describes as high risk counties. These counties are not museums – we cannot just stand back and leave these animals where they are." *
The government must be prepared to recognise the enormous economic impact that its restrictions will have."