Scots to test sheep for TSEs without owner’s knowledge

The Scottish Government proposes to meet its European obligations to test fallen sheep for transmissible spongiform encophalophathies (TSEs) in future by sampling animals from fallen stock collectors without the owner’s knowledge or permission.

The proposal, contained in the TSE (Scotland) Regulations 2010, has been branded “unacceptable” by NFU Scotland vice-president Nigel Millar. He said: “If surveillance results are positive it can change the disease status of a flock and trigger significant controls and possibly slaughter. Fallen sheep must not be taken without the knowledge of the owner.”

Mr Millar conceded, however, that the free service to farmers for the collection, sampling and disposal of sheep and goat carcasses accepted into its surveillance scheme had been costly and could be improved.

But he said that, while the dramatic decline in cases of BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep was a good news story for the farming industry, the continuing testing and surveillance controls meant farmers were now carrying “needless costs”.

“The continued EU requirement to split older sheep carcasses to remove spinal cord is an unnecessary cost when scientists have recognised that any perceived risk of BSE being harboured in sheep is virtually non-existent and the threat to food safety is negligible,” he said.