Scottish Union Calls for Import Ban

SCOTLAND, UK - NFU Scotland has used a major one-day livestock event to urge all producers in the UK to ban imports from Northern Europe until such times as bluetongue disease is seen to be under control and Europe has put tougher movement restrictions in place.
calendar icon 19 November 2008
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The Union’s Vice-president, Nigel Miller made the call at AgriScot, an annual event being held at Ingliston, near Edinburgh today (Wednesday, 19 November).

Bluetongue is a devastating disease of livestock. Scotland is currently engaged in a compulsory vaccination programme to protect its livestock against one of the strains of the disease but the reckless actions of some producers, who persist in importing animals from the continent, is threatening the safety of our stock.

At the end of last week, Defra confirmed that post-import testing had detected strain 8 of bluetongue (BTV8) in one imported sheep on a premise in Gloucestershire, and in a further consignment of six imported cattle on a premise in Dorset. All of these animals originated in France. Since August, more than 40 animals have been imported into England from France and Germany. These animals were all believed to be free of disease when leaving their country of birth but tested positive on arrival in England.

NFU Scotland Vice-president Nigel Miller said:

“While Government continues to test all susceptible animals imported to the UK from continental Europe, for all strains of bluetongue, the key to protection lies in avoiding imports in the first place.

“We have a window of opportunity between now and April 30, 2009 to vaccinate all susceptible stock in Scotland against strain 8 of bluetongue (BTV8). While BTV8 presents the greatest threat, there are two other strains of bluetongue – BTV1 and BTV6 – in northern Europe and cases of these are increasing day by day. The vaccine available in Scotland will only protect us against BTV8. To avoid the introduction of any strains, we require farmers to put in place a complete ban on the introduction of animals from Europe into the UK.

“All Scottish farmers and their representative bodies are behind this ban. However, to be truly effective, we also need Europe to bolster its legislation on bluetongue to allow us to put a ban on imports in place until such times as Europe has demonstrated that it has the disease under control. More robust movement restrictions are urgently needed and must be agreed by European vets in the near future.

“In the meantime, producers in Scotland need to get behind the vaccination campaign. There will be concerns and questions about the vaccine and its use and the ongoing series of meetings on bluetongue, organised by industry and Government, have been very well attended. More than 250 farmers have been at the first few meetings and I would urge all to consider going along. The newly launched Bluetongue Helpline, will also help ensure that Scotland gets this vital vaccination process right.”

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