Industry celebrates bluetongue reclassification

Great Britain will be reclassified as a lower risk zone for bluetongue meaning animals imported from countries affected by the disease will be subject to tougher controls.

The move by the European Commission, which comes into effect on 12 June, means imported livestock will have to meet more stringent vaccination conditions, lowering the risk of the disease entering the country.

Britain is currently part of the BTV8 protection zone which means animals imported from countries of the same rating do not have to be vaccinated or tested for bluetongue infection.

The Lower Risk Zone is a new classification which requires imported animals to either be vaccinated followed by a 60 day wait before import, vaccinated followed by a test 14 days after the onset of immunity, or receive a booster vaccination within time period of immunity. Pregnant animals will also have needed to meet vaccination conditions before insemination or mating.

The Joint Campaign against Bluetongue said the decision would provide greater protection against bluetongue without affecting imports, and vaccinations could continue as normal.

“This move to a Lower Risk Zone imposes tighter controls on animals brought into the country from BTV8 protection zones and will help keep disease out,” said JAB spokesman John Mercer. “This is absolutely crucial as it ensures that bluetongue will not return to this country through animal moves from those areas and in turn hamper our chances of eventually moving to freedom.”

DEFRA minister Jim Paice said: “This is a great result that speaks volumes for the work done by farmers and vets, who’ve worked with the government to achieve this Lower Risk Zone status for bluetongue. It will help protect our livestock producers but they must remain vigilant and anyone importing stock must make sure that they meet the new requirements for importation.”

Chief vet Nigel Gibbens added: “The news from SCoFCAH [Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health] that Great Britain has achieved Lower Risk Zone status is testament to the excellent cooperation between industry and government demonstrated from the earliest days of 2007’s bluetongue outbreak.

“We have remained in a bluetongue Protection Zone since the first case was confirmed and the efforts of responsible livestock owners and vets in vaccinating stock and the surveillance work by Animal Health, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Institute for Animal Health has allowed us to successfully apply for this revised status.

“But we cannot become complacent, and I’d encourage farmers and vets to continue to vaccinate their livestock and remain vigilant for disease while additional targeted surveillance continues in the higher risk areas.”

Nicky Paull, Past-President of the British Veterinary Association and member of DEFRA’s Bluetongue Core Group said the move to a Lower Risk Zone was another step in the direction of disease-free status.

“It is something that the veterinary profession has fought for and we are delighted that the new arrangements mean that vaccination can continue in Britain.

“With imports to Britain increasing at a high rate, we know that the biggest threat to the country was importation of the disease. That is why the additional vaccination measures for imports are vital in protecting British livestock.”