VEGA News Item

DEFRA consultation on the National Scrapie Plan - 02/07/2003
Read VEGA's response to the government Consultation paper: National Scrapie Plan – Scrapie Flocks Scheme..

Consultation paper: National Scrapie Plan – Scrapie Flocks Scheme

1. We are surprised at the omission of goats from the Plan.

2. In ignorance at the moment of the distribution in other farm animals, commensals, and wildlife – as well as fish and birds – that could act as reservoirs of agents causing TSEs we recommend that the Plan be scrutinised for possibilities of extension and revision (e.g. to include species such as deer, camelids, reindeer, and rabbits) and that allowance or allocations be made for bovine-like species, e.g. buffalos, and to animals etc kept in collections such as zoos.

3. The Plan should be cast in a form easy to adapt for other countries with populations of cattle and sheep afflicted with TSEs.

4. Identification and traceability in the live animals are too important to leave to ear-tagging. The tags already carry a lot of information, they are easily lost or substituted, and they are likely to hurt the animals because of maladroit fixing, snagging, and tearing of tissue.

5. Use of SNPs sharpen genetic means of breeding applicable, with some parallels in human populations for veterinary purposes of therapy and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the interests of production and health and welfare. These are very powerful markers, albeit with precedents (e.g. eradication from the pig population of the gene for halothane-sensitivity and tendency to PSE-meat), but recent developments in the present climate on genetic matters (cf the cloning of sheep) may belatedly spark off pent-up controversy.

6. Grain in one sense from genetic deletions and alterations may invite as-yet unappreciated losses in other attributes. Retention of rare breeds is advocated as a source of genetic riches. Radical elimination of ‘scrapie-plus’ genotypes could reverse this precaution by extinguishing certain genotypes beyond even rarity. This is a possibility before it is too late.

7. Application of rigorous culling based on ever more finely-tuned biochemical markers is an attraction for breeders that can easily be overdone. Such applications should be reviewed against the potential of vaccination policies.  

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