17 May 2002

TSE rules too like Animal Health Bill

By FW reporters

A ROW has broken out over a government regulation which is claimed to be an attempt to force through elements of the now defunct Animal Health Bill.

Peers blocked the bill – which gave officials greater powers to deal with outbreaks of diseases such as foot-and-mouth – in March 2002. But critics claim a Statutory Instrument, laid by the government on Apr 19 and called The TSE regulations 2002, is along the same lines.

As farmers weekly went to press on Wednesday (May 15), peers were preparing for a debate initiated by cross-bencher Lady Mar which could lead to the legislation being annulled.

The Farmers Union of Wales said the new rules gave inspectors Draconian powers to gain entry to farms and slaughter animals against their owners wishes.

It claimed the new powers allowed inspectors to enter any farm housing "TSE susceptible animals" using "reasonable force" and slaughter animals. It also said anyone who obstructed an inspector in their work could be imprisoned for up to two years.

Bob Parry, FUW president, said: "As far as I can see these new rules do not give the farmers any protection whatsoever. There is no scope for any kind of appeal by the farmers against a government inspectors decision to slaughter all the animals on the farm."

The Countryside Alliance said the use of a statutory instrument to give DEFRA these powers was an attempt to "circumvent democracy".

But Robin Cook, leader of the House of Commons, told MPs last Thursday (May 9) there was no extension of the power of slaughter in the rules.

"The only new matter in the regulations is the power to carry out wider testing to try to establish whether there have been transmissable forms of BSE. That form of testing does not involve the slaughter of live animals but the examination of dead carcasses."

A DEFRA spokesman said the regulation did also involve tighter controls on specified risk material disposal and a requirement to remove the vertebral column from over 30-month cattle

But the regulation was EU legislation which the UK had to enforce. It was not an attempt get the Animal Health Bill in by the back door, he said.

"The European legislation was passed in Brussels well before we even dreamt up the Animal Health Bill."

But Lady Mar rejected this claim. "If you compare it with the EU directive there is not much similarity between the two," she said. &#42