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Welsh Livestock Farmers Feel Effect of Bluetongue Restrictions
26/10/07

Bluetongue restrictions are too rigid and onerous to allow hundreds of Welsh livestock farmers to run their businesses lawfully according to CLA, the rural economy experts.

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

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Speaking during a visit to the Vale of Glamorgan, deputy president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher called for flexibility and a sense of proportion in dealing with the midge borne virus.

"There is a real danger, with the Bluetongue Protection Zone coming right up to the Welsh Border, of killing the industry in a misplaced determination to control the virus", he warned.

"Trading has been entirely disrupted, particularly in the Welsh Borders, and the effect on livestock prices is devastating.

"Another major problem is that traditional farming practice means that many, many, farmers particularly those who are progressive and have expanded by taking on land in England, have animals trapped on one side of the Border or the other.

"There are sheep away on tack, rams needing to go to ewes, dry cows and calving heifers, store lambs and others trapped on parcels of land away from the home farm and technically unable to return for two years! English border fatstock markets serving welsh needs are now a one way ticket as animals cannot return, giving buyers the upper hand on price.

"The impact on farm incomes and on morale is going to be enormous. Has the Welsh Assembly Government considered what will happen to all these animals when the keep runs out and tenancies come to an end?

"Animal welfare is a very serious issue and we fully understand the need to try and protect Welsh livestock from this disease. However there is also the issue of the welfare of our industry and of our farming families. Again we ask has the Welsh Assembly Government considered how they can possibly run their businesses and pay their bills under these constraints?"

Henry Aubrey-Fletcher called on the Welsh Assembly Government to consider a number of options. These range from including Wales in the Bluetongue Protection Zone in order to free up trade, imposing less stringent licensing requirements as is the case in France, except for longer and potentially riskier east to west movements, and pressing for urgent action on developing a vaccine.

He added that pressure also had to be brought to bear on the European Union. The continental experience had shown that the EU regulations describing the Protection Zone area are too large.

And he stressed that, in addition to the difficulties the Protection Zone posed for the industry, it was creating a drop in lamb prices equivalent to the cost to a farmer of losing on average 25% of his lamb crop to the virus if it struck. The prospect of colder weather, which kills the midges carrying the disease, and the likelihood of a vaccine being developed meant that a producer in Wales was as likely to lose less money through the risk of Bluetongue than through trade restrictions.

link Bluetongue Vaccination Programme Imperative
link Bluetongue Controls Must Not Do More Harm Than Good
link Overwintering Midges Could Have Caused Bluetongue Crisis

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