http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/business.cfm?id=1128932002

20-day standstill rule divides vets

Vic Robertson


VETERINARY opinion is divided on the government’s 20-day standstill rule
imposed on animal movements in the wake of foot-and-mouth.

While vets do not want a return to the free movement allowed prior to the
crisis, many are calling for a relaxation of the law, which is intended to
prevent the spread of disease.

David Henderson, former head of clinical studies and farms director at the
Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh is a leading critic of the rule.

He said: "We are on the wrong road with 20 days. It does not fit in well
with established patterns of sheep farming, with seasonal movements from the
hills and uplands to the lowlands and the complex pattern of sales
particularly at this time of year. It also pushes up costs, notably for
multiple examinations by vets."

He said farmers opposed to the rule would obstruct vets and the authorities
, at a time when increased veterinary presence on farms is needed to improve
health and welfare.

"No law is worth the paper it is written on if it’s un-policeable," he said.

He advocated a more relaxed approach involving increased training for
farmers, and linking subsidies to health and welfare. In return the
government should reduce the standstill time to five days to protect
welfare, prevent "pitching" and allow time for traceability.

However former assistant chief veterinary officer Kevin Taylor backed the
"precautionary principle" behind the current rule.

He said only movement direct to slaughter or to a separate slaughter market
should be allowed during the standstill period.

The opinions of Peter Jinman, the new British Veterinary Association
president, and one of his predecessors, Professor Karl Linklater, lie in
between.

"You cannot look at the 20-day rule in isolation. If you do that you lose
the whole purpose of what it is about and that is bio-security," said
Jinman.

"It was naive to believe the government that the tax payer would pay for
another multi-million pound disease crisis. Nor could the industry afford
it," he said.

And he added it was time for all those concerned to get round the table to
work out a more acceptable long term solution with, perhaps, the retention
of a ten-day standstill and the creation of separation areas for stock as
the norm.

Professor Linklater took a similar line but said he favoured a standstill
closer to the current 20 days than five. He said: "The number of days could
be debated but you can’t argue against the need for some sort of standstill
in perpetuity. The emphasis has been on foot-and-mouth but isolation and a
limit on movements would have a beneficial impact in terms of reducing the
spread of other endemic diseases."