Vet warns of five-year export ban
By Robert Davies, Wales Correspondent
ANY moves to resume full-scale livestock trading without approval from Brussels could result in a five-year export ban, a leading vet has warned.
Producers within foot-and-mouth restricted areas can only trade within these areas, limiting outlets for stock. They are calling for access to other markets.
But at a NFU Wales meeting at Builth Wells on Monday (18 June) night, Waless chief vet Tony Edwards cautioned against rushing to resume full trading.
If this took place before blood testing was complete, and without approval from the EU standing veterinary committee, a five-year ban could result.
At present, exports should be able to resume three months after the last foot-and-mouth case, provided blood testing of sheep in infected areas is complete.
“Until blood testing is complete Europe will insist on a standstill in intra- community trade,” Mr Edwards told a packed audience of 650 farmers.
“We are very aware of problems stacking up on farms, but we have to balance disease control against the needs of the industry and animal welfare.”
Only a dozen positive results had been found among the 67,000 blood samples taken in the 7km surveillance control zones around the 93 Welsh confirmed cases.
But Brussels wanted wider scale testing.
Mr Edwards acknowledged complaints of low prices resulting from restrictions on the movement of livestock in restricted areas direct to slaughter.
He promised an announcement within three days covering cattle, but admitted that traceability problems made it more difficult to ease controls on sheep.
Gareth Jones, director of the Welsh National Assemblys foot-and-mouth control unit, was applauded when he dismissed rumours of a new mass cull of Welsh sheep.
But he was loudly jeered when he claimed that no healthy animals had been killed unnecessarily.
He hoped that the disease was under control but, as experience in north Yorkshire showed, it was vital to maintain bio-security measures.
The strongest attack on the way the epidemic was handled came from consultant clinical virologist and farmer Dr Ruth Watkins.
She slammed the totally inaccurate information about vaccination that was peddled by the NFU and others throughout the epidemic.
Dr Watkins insisted that the modern oil based vaccine was inexpensive at 50p/dose, very safe and very effective.
There were tests to distinguish between vaccinated animals and those exposed to the live virus, and no recorded case of a vaccinated animal infecting another.
All animals vaccinated to create firebreaks, which would have controlled the spread in days not weeks, would not need to be slaughtered, she said.
Mr Edwards said he had not make the rules by which the disease was controlled, and he conceded that the EU could decide to use vaccination in future.
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