Rooker calls on livestock farmers to be vigilant

The letter below was written by Jeff Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming, and Animal Health, to the readers of Farmers Weekly.

LETTER FROM TO FARMING PRESS from Jeff Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming, and Animal Health.

The farming community has reacted magnificently to the news of further Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) cases in Surrey. Throughout this very difficult summer I have been deeply impressed by the response of farmers and local communities.

All of us share the same overriding aim: to eradicate FMD and regain the UK’s disease free status. The UK-wide livestock standstill is an essential measure, but of course I recognise the pressure it places on the industry. That is why we have licenced low-risk movements, such as to slaughter, as quickly as prudence allows.

This forms part of our staged and risk-based approach, which incorporates the lessons learnt from the 2001 FMD outbreak. At all times consultation with the Core Group representing the farming industry has been very close and I am grateful to all its members for their work.

It is now vital that all livestock keepers continue to practice the highest levels of biosecurity and strictly adhere to the movement and licence conditions. It is only by working in partnership at local and national level that we will be successful in eradicating this serious disease. It is the vigilance of farmers themselves which is our most important weapon in tackling this disease.

Practical advice about biosecurity is available from the Defra website and from local Animal Health offices. Other practical support for farmers is available from Farming Help, the Samaritans, HM Revenue and Customs and the RSPCA. Details are available from the Defra helpline (08459 33 55 77) and our website.

As Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming, and Animal Health, I would like to thank everyone affected by this outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease for their forbearance and tremendous efforts on the ground.  But I continue  to urge all animal keepers, whether hobby keepers or commercial enterprises, to be vigilant for any signs of disease.  It really is essential to report any suspicion immediately to your local Animal Health office.

Together, but only together, we can beat Foot and Mouth disease.

Jeff Rooker.