In summary:-

7         There is currently no evidence of naturally occurring BSE in sheep.

7         Scrapie has been present in sheep for many hundreds of years. It seems odd that this historic disease must suddenly be dealt with in this precipitate and unscientific fashion.

7         Selecting for scrapie-resistant genotypes is not necessarily the correct approach to controlling scrapie and certainly cannot be extended to controlling the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep.

7         To allow inspectors the right to forcibly enter premises, on possibly tenuous grounds, to take samples or even slaughter animals and to threaten those sheep keepers who object with imprisonment and fines is taking control measures to excessive levels with clear infringement of animal welfare and personal liberties.

7         It would appear that DEFRA and its Government Ministers has learnt nothing from the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic, in which huge numbers of healthy hefted sheep were slaughtered unnecessarily. (Note: DEFRA has agreed figures from the Meat and Livestock Commision that put the number of animals slaughtered during the foot and mouth epidemic in excess of 10 million). The latest quote from Elliot Morley to farmers in the North of England does, to some extent, explain the Government’s perverse approach “You people have got to realize that we do not need your sheep. We can import all the meat we need”.

7        The contribution of breeds like the Herdwick and Swaledale to the beautiful environment of the Lake District is crucial, most sheep breeds are not hardy enough to prosper on the Lakeland fells, so how does the Government intend to maintain this unique environment if they kill off locally adapted hefted sheep?

7         The Government is incorrect to assert that SI843 is in line with EU regulations. EU regulations currently in force apply to animals with disease, or suspected of having disease, not to animals susceptible to disease. The European Regulations talk about monitoring of animals that are already TSE infected; the SI insists on slaughter of TSE susceptible animals.

7         These comments also apply to other species in which TSE has been reported, for example, cats, as feline spongiform encephalopathy (a feline TSE) has been reported in this species. There is likely to be a conflict of interest between the provisions of the draft Animal Welfare Bill and SI 843.

7          ‘New Labour – New Life for Animals’ (Labour Party manifesto, 1997) rings hollow. By any measure, and to their utter shame, New Labour has comprehensively failed to treat farm livestock - and their owners - with the compassion that should be the norm in a civilised society.