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THE NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP

PRESS STATEMENT: 22 August 2001

UK FARMERS DISADVANTAGED BY NFU STANCE ON VACCINATION

Recent public statements from Ben Gill, President of the NFU, indicate that the Union is still unaware of many of the facts regarding vaccination. Nor does the Union appear to realise how much FMD vaccinated meat is already being imported and consumed in the UK.

At a public meeting last week in Carlisle Mr Gill was still under the impression that all vaccinated animals had to be slaughtered. In fact the EU Decisions sought and obtained by the UK Government to vaccinate cattle in Devon and Cumbria, and later in Somerset, Cornwall and Dorset, 30 March and 24 April, respectively, were for protective vaccination, not suppressive vaccination, which meant that it was not necessary to slaughter such animals, under EU legislation.

As regards Mr Gill's comments, at the same meeting, that under EU regulations it did not say that vaccinated animals could live, the NF&MG have searched through the legislation and can find no reference to this. What the EU decision of 30 March does say is how vaccinated animals and milk products are to be prepared to enter the food chain. See Annex V and VI of the Decision - 2001/257/EC - 30 March 2001.

Mr Gill's reliance on a letter from a friend in Argentina for the definitive proof that FMD can be transmitted between vaccinated animals and their progeny is also worrying. The view of many leading world scientists in FMD is that this is not the case.

Turning to Mr Gill's assertion that FMD vaccinated meat and meat products would have to be labelled - it is the opinion of the Food Standards Agency and the National Consumer Council that this is not the case. FMD vaccinated meat and milk products imported into the EU andUK are not labelled so why should home produced meat and products be disadvantaged and treated differently. It has always appeared extremely odd that the NFU has sought to have more onerous restrictions placed on the domestic market as opposed to the import market.

One of the most worrying aspects regarding FMD vaccinated imports is that despite lengthy research and communication, mostly with DEFRA, the NF&MG have still not been able to ascertain the amount of FMD vaccinated meat and meat products entering the UK from countries where FMD is endemic or vaccination takes place. Ultimately DEFRA referred us to the OIE website. The assumption we have been forced to make is that it is not known by DEFRA, or Customs and Excise, or anyone, how much vaccinated meat is actually being imported into the UK.

One of the key difficulties is that once the meat and meat products enter the EU, which they can do through many Border Inspection Posts across the EU, there are no further controls as they pass from Country to Country. Therefore it is extremely difficult to determine where the country of origin actually was, the only reference is the country of despatch. Source DEFRA.

The NF&MG is of the opinion that if the NFU had sought parity with the import market, regarding FMD vaccinated meat, this would have meant that a vaccination policy could have been much more easily implemented. As it is, the opposition of the NFU to sensibly and seriously consider vaccination as a valid means of controlling and eradicating the disease, and to not accept the advice of the FSA and NCC re labelling, has inflicted monumental damage on the agricultural industry. It has also led to massive and disproportionate losses to tourism and the wider rural economy. Before any further damage is inflicted on the rural community, or on the nation, by the current adherence to slaughter and cull, we urge the NFU to realistically consider both the EU legislation and the provisions of the OIE regarding vaccination.

THE NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP
Co-ordinating Office: 3 The Common, Siddington, Cirencester, Glos GL7 6EY
Tel: 01285 644319 or 01285 656812