New power of entry 'will be a last resort'

Nov 11 2002

By Anna Lognonne, The Journal


Defra has now been granted new powers of entry on to farms for vaccination, serology or slaughter in the Animal Health Act 2002 - which has received Royal Assent.

The legislation, which has passed through Parliament, also provides additional powers to cull animals to prevent the spread of disease in the event of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Defra said the Act should be seen as only one part of the means for fighting a disease outbreak.

It provides the underpinning legislation for a wide range of options, in conjunction with existing powers.

Provisions will start to come into effect shortly and include:

1. Strengthened enforcement powers and powers to extend the new measures to other animal diseases.

2. The requirement to publish the national contingency plan.

3. Publication of biosecurity guidance.

4. An annual report on import controls, including illegal imports of animal products.

5. Stronger conditions that have to be met before a warrant can be granted to gain entry to farms.

There is also a duty for the secretary of state to consider whether vaccination is the most appropriate method of disease control for FMD in the event of a future outbreak.

On scrapie, the Act includes enabling powers, which would provide for the acceleration of the National Scrapie Plan by requiring all sheep to be genotyped and those found not to have a genotype providing resistance to scrapie to be slaughtered, castrated or sterilised.

Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley said: "In the event of a future outbreak, we need to make sure that we have a wide range of disease control options available, including vaccination, serology and slaughter.

"This Act provides the necessary disease control measures and the range of strategies in the Government's armoury as highlighted in the Government's response to the FMD inquiries.

"We believe stakeholder involvement is vitally important and we will involve industry representatives at all times in the event of another outbreak. We only intend to use these measures in the Act as a last resort.

"There are a number of positive issues within this Act, which provides greater protection for rare breeds and a range of other measures."