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Stackyard News Feb 08

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Bluetongue Risk to Scotland Without Vaccine is Too High

NBA Scotland cannot understand the risk the Scottish Government is prepared to take by not ordering bluetongue vaccine for general use on livestock farms this summer.

photo courtesy


It says it is unrealistic for Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, to expect farmers to be able to counter the advance of bluetongue virus, which has the potential to inflict disastrous economic and animal welfare damage on their businesses, without access to an effective restraint.

And is alarmed that while the Scottish Government says it would be prepared to spend up to £10 million on financing a national vaccination programme, should bluetongue rampage towards the Scottish border later this year, it is ready to gamble on only 100-200 Scottish animals being infected over 2008 – and prefers to hold back its funding until 2009 instead.

“England expects a bluetongue conflagration in previously free areas over July and August and is rolling out a national vaccination programme, that will begin at the end of May, to counter this,” explained NBA Scotland chairman, Iain Mathers.

“Livestock farms in Scotland face the same dangers and the Scottish Government should acknowledge that a deadly and damaging disease like bluetongue is like a fire which can only be controlled on the spot by an effective extinguisher like vaccination.”

“Mr Lochhead’s advisors have said they will be able to secure sufficient vaccine for Scotland if they are faced with an emergency but at this stage prefer not to commit themselves to the cost of the order.”

“They have also said they prefer to defer covering Scotland with the protection zone (PZ) status which is required for vaccination to take place because they wish to protect live animal trade with Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.”

“However they have not acknowledged the difficulties Scotland’s store and breeding stock producers will have selling unvaccinated stock into much more important markets in England and Wales this autumn if Scotland does not vaccinate or volunteer for PZ status.”

“Nor have they recognised the appetite that already exists among Scottish farmers themselves for access to bluetongue vaccine. More of Scotland’s livestock farmers than the Scottish Government appears to think want the comfort of vaccination cover.”

“And many have already said they will do all they can to vaccinate, whether it is officially approved or not, because they are worried that when autumn comes there may not be a market in England or Wales for their stock unless they have been protected from bluetongue.”

“NBA Scotland has no doubt that adequate supplies of vaccine should be available to beef and sheep farmers this summer because it not only shields their animals, and their business, from a debilitating disease but also prevents farmers who have not vaccinated their stock facing additional cost through being cut off from regular markets in those areas of Britain where vaccination has taken place.”

“We are delighted to hear Mr Lockhead will provide BTV8 vaccine when necessary, but will vaccine be delivered when needed at the right cost. There is still time for the Scottish Government to order vaccine that can be used in 2008 to protect the Scottish cattle herd and sheep flock – and I would urge it to do so immediately,” Mr. Mathers added.

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