DEFRA announces 11th-hour U-turn on pre-movement testing

DEFRA has succumbed to pressure from the farming industry and postponed the introduction of compulsory pre-movement testing to allow the industry more time to prepare.

Originally due to come in to effect on Monday, 20 February DEFRA made an 11th-hour U-turn late on Thursday (16 February) evening announcing that the requirement would be delayed until 27 March.

The move is a result of pressure from the farming unions and political pressure from the Conservative party which has tabeld an Early Day Motion against the proposals.  So far the EDM has gained more than 40 signatures from MPs across the three main parties.

In its statement DEFRA said: “DEFRA has listened to concerns raised by the farming industry and veterinary profession and will appoint an independent advisor to carry out a rapid survey of veterinary capacity and preparedness to deliver the new requirements for pre-movement testing. The detail of the policy will not be subject to review.”

Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw added: “Delaying introduction until 27 March is not a decision that has been taken lightly and I urge farming and veterinary communities to use this additional time to consider the detailed guidance and prepare their businesses for the new start date.”

The announcement was welcomed by the NFU, but condemned by the Badger Trust which said the industry had been given more than enough time to prepare and accused the government of demonstrating “a shocking lack of courage”.

NFU president Tim Bennett said: “This news is the minimum we needed to hear at this stage.

“The confusion that exists on farms is enormous, and quite frankly, any other outcome was unthinkable.  What DEFRA needs to do now is to consider carefully the pre-movement regulation and the impact it will have on farming businesses before coming back to the industry with realistic proposals.

“It is essential that DEFRA give a realistic time frame to sort out the regulation and, if implemented, have a system that the industry can work with.  From the NFU perspective it seems sensible to give at least three months to sort this out.”

Badger Trust media advisor Trevor Lawson commented: “This decision demonstrates a shocking lack of courage on the part of Government.  It means that around 1.3 million additional cattle movements will occur without pre-movement testing, spreading the infection even wider.

“The Badger Trust believes the industry has had more than enough time to prepare, so what is the real reason for this delay?  We believe that this decision leaves the Minister open to accusations of doing a shabby political deal with farmers to exterminate badgers.   This will not help to reduce the problem of bovine TB, but the Minister seems to want the cooperation of farming lobby groups that have staked their reputations on securing badger culling as a solution to the disease.”