Sheep dip could be banned across large parts of England and Wales in a clampdown against pollution, Farmers Weekly has learned.
The ban in areas at high-risk from pollution is just one option being considered as part of a Sheep Dip Pollution Reduction Programme launched by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Environment Agency.
Other options include the implementation of stricter controls, the licensing of sheep dip shower facilities and a major drive to eradicate sheep scab from the national flock.
Philip Rees, chairman of the steering group implementing the programme, said it was vital to find a long-term solution to the problem of sheep dip pollution.
Regulations could be introduced unless voluntary measures curtailed pollution, he suggested.
The options are being assessed, taking into account their likely impact on animal health and welfare, the environment and the rural economy.
However, the agency is eager to reduce the number of avoidable sheep dip pollution incidents.
Many of these involve the routine use of dip, rather than its disposal.
In one case, a small quantity of cypermethrin dip, used to wash out a livestock lorry, polluted a 10-mile stretch of a river in Wales.
The NFU has warned its members that the responsible use of sheep dip is vital if farmers are to maintain access to a wide range of technical treatments, meet cross compliance requirements and avoid penalties.
Earlier this summer, it launched a Stop Every Drop campaign to minimise the risk of ground and surface water pollution when dipping sheep.
Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said he supported pollution reduction, but opposed any move to ban sheep dip products.
It would be a mistake to focus on the environment at the expense of animal welfare, he said.
“The way forward is to educate and inform so sheep dip is used responsibly – not to use a big stick.”