VEGA News Item

An EU Row over Possible Carriage of Blue Tongue Virus - 15/05/2009

Regulations Must be Tightened

1. As air temperature's rise above 15ºC risks of the spread of blue-tongue viruses increase and of flu viruses dwindle for new waves as winter begins. Therefore a violation of bluetongue regulations, while swine flu persisted and perhaps reassorted itself in a "paradigm shift", calls arose from farming leaders for tightening of European regulations and "proper" enforcement by all member states.

2. A recent incident occurred after 6 Dutch dairy heifers were legally transported to Scotland en route to the Republic of Ireland. When the animals arrived at the port of Larne in Northern Ireland, it was discovered that 2 of the animals had been pregnant before being vaccinated against bluetongue, breaching the European requirements on movements between Europe's BTV8 zone and a BTV-free zone, such as Ireland. As a result the 2 animals were refused entry to Ireland and shipped back on the ferry to Stranraer in Scotland.

3. The NFU Scotland Vice-President, Nigel Miller, described the situation as "an absolute mess" and urged the Scottish government to send the animals back to the Netherlands, adding that the incident should not have happened if the Dutch authorities had properly policed movements in the first place. "If member states like the Netherlands, with a history of BTV, are failing to implement existing movement controls then it underlines the urgent need for stronger European regulations that will protect a country like Scotland from getting this devastating disease," said Nigel Miller. "That would hopefully include rules that would prevent the transit of animals from BTV areas to elsewhere."

4. This is a foreseeable problem because the border between Scotland and England separates zones of different status in BTV regulations, so through-traffic can set problems. However, shunting the consignments back and forth only aggravates an absolute mess and subjects the animals to undue stress. The NFU should ensure that the young cows are properly looked after as a priority.

5. BTVs do not pose a significant risk to human populations but their persistence, reappearance, and variations cause misery to affected livestock. Flu viruses involve more risks and involve humans. The coincidence of these diseases has recently engaged the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Veterinary Public Health Agency (VPHA) in appraisals of the Pennington Report on an outbreak in 2005 in Wales of E. coli O157, in a dangerous pathogenic bacterial form, as a result of which a butcher has been imprisoned. Food-borne outbreaks from non-meat foods (e.g. bagged salads) call for the FSA's attentions occasionally; they may even arise as a result of contamination by animal materials in the food chain from farm to fork and to carelessness by consumers storing dripping meat over uncovered veggie items. Alerts over such possibilities continue to vex EHOs (environmental health officers) and TSOs (trading standards officers).


Registered Charity No. 1045293
© VEGA - 2008