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Livestock Farmers Regain Bluetongue Free Status
2011-06-13

The perseverance and diligence shown by Great Britain’s livestock farmers and other industry stakeholders have seen the country regains its Bluetongue-free status.

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Bluetongue (BTV), a devastating viral disease that affects both cattle and sheep, infected parts of South East England in August 2007 following a major disease outbreak in mainland Europe. Scotland has remained free of the disease and undertook a Scottish Government-supported vaccination programme in 2008 to protect stock from the midge-borne virus.

It had been hoped that Scotland, as well as England and Wales, could move to BTV free status but still retain the option to vaccinate were the disease risk status to change. However, the decision to change the rules to accommodate free status and vaccination has been delayed in Europe. Given the decline in the disease risk across Europe, NFU Scotland is in agreement that the time is right to move to BTV free status without waiting for the option to allow vaccination in a free region. That decision means vaccination in the UK must stop from 5 July 2011.

NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “It is a tribute to the commitment and due diligence of all livestock stakeholders in Scotland that the country’s cattle and sheep remain free of this devastating disease. That hard work has been rewarded with a return to disease-free status without a single case being recorded.

“By taking on board a voluntary ban on imports from high risk areas in Europe and buying in to a compulsory Scottish vaccination programme, Scotland’s livestock farmers showed tremendous responsibility and went the extra mile to avoid BTV.

“While our preference would have been for a move to BTV free status with the ability to vaccinate, agreement on such a policy is bogged down at a European level. Government has reassured us that the incidence of disease on the continent is sufficiently low to justify applying for BTV free status now and work towards the vaccination option in due course.

“Given the lower risk now prevailing, and the advantages to trade and increased import protection, that is a decision we support. Bluetongue free status will take effect from July 5, 2011 and means animals being exported from Great Britain to other EU Bluetongue Free Countries will no longer require vaccination. That change takes place before the main Scottish sales and will hopefully provide a boost in trade to important markets like Ireland.

“Looking ahead, it would be a huge blow were any reckless behaviour to undermine what has been a great industry effort. Given that low levels of disease remain in Europe, we fully endorse Scotland's Chief Veterinary Officer, Simon Hall’s call to remain vigilant against the signs of Bluetongue and to continue to source livestock responsibly. Any farmer who suspects BTV in their stock must notify their local Divisional Veterinary Manager immediately.”

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