11 September 2001
Welfare fears from new move rules

By Alistair Driver

WELFARE problems loom for millions of cattle and sheep in foot-and-mouth infected counties this autumn.

Many will be stuck on farms after the government announced new arrangements for livestock movements.

Defra Secretary of State Margaret Beckett announced on Tuesday (11 September) that the counties would be divided into three foot-and-mouth categories; high risk counties; at-risk counties; and foot-and-mouth-free counties.

Movements of livestock in high-risk counties will be limited to the county boundaries.

This will apply from 24 September for cattle and pigs and 1 October for sheep.

As a result, sheep and cattle from counties such as Northumberland and Cumbria that would normally have been moved to other parts of the country would be confined to their farms.

NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said this will cause huge financial and welfare problems.

“That is why we will only support the new measures if the payments made under the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme are enhanced”.

Mrs Beckett also announced arrangements for movement in at-risk areas.

Livestock can move to other at-risk counties; while livestock from “virus-free” counties can move to other virus-free counties, and to at-risk counties.

Although Devon is classified as an at-risk county there will be extra restrictions on movement in Devon until blood testing is complete there.

Mrs Beckett said all movements would be subject to bio-security controls and all livestock to be moved must be inspected by a vet in the 24 hours prior to movement.

Sheep in at-risk and high-risk counties will have to be blood-tested before they can be moved.

Mrs Beckett said “Our overriding priority is to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease.

“Autumn is usually the busiest time of year for the movement of livestock, but we cannot risk the disease flaring up and emerging in new areas or re-appearing in old ones.

“This is why we have concluded that it is only possible to re-start commercial movement of stock if strict conditions are imposed to protect against the spread of the disease”.

Government chief scientist Professor David King, speaking at the same press conference, ruled out vaccination as a policy to contain the disease.

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