VETS FROM Ireland, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand could be drafted in if there is a serious outbreak of a notifiable disease in the UK.

Ministers have signed a formal agreement with the governments of the countries concerned which says that they will work together to tackle major disease outbreaks.

The agreement provides for the exchange of vets and other experts, such as laboratory diagnosticians and animal health technicians to tackle outbreaks in the six countries.

It will also provide a platform to exchange information on new and developing diseases.

The agreement was signed in Paris where the annual conference of the Office International des Epizooties – the international animal health body is being held. 

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said the UK already worked very closely with the countries concerned.

“Experienced veterinarians and other experts from other countries played an important role in our successful eradication of foot and mouth disease in 2001,” he said.

“Equally, we have invaluable veterinary expertise, technicians, laboratory diagnosticians and emergency managers in the UK that can be of real assistance to other countries.

“The agreement formalises the existing arrangements by ensuring that the signatory countries can rely on expert support should they face a major animal disease outbreak.”