(Embargo: 00.30 hrs Friday 28 December 2001)




- an analysis of the hidden impact of the Animal Health Bill reveals the dangers to livestock heritage and to farmers' rights.


In a detailed paper published today a specialist sheep group, supported by Rare Breeds International (RBI) and The Traditional Livestock Foundation (TLF), sets out the dangers lurking within the Animal Health Bill currently before Parliament.


Convenor of the Northern Short-Tailed Sheep Group (NST SG), Peter Titley, said:

"The unprecedented and extreme measures in the Bill would give the Government powers to override the civil liberties of farmers beyond anything experienced during the Foot and Mouth outbreak - so much so, that some genetically vital breeds are threatened with extinction and all of this on the back of unreliable science"


The Group demands further exploration of the prion protein mechanisms which lie at the heart of the Government's panic measures over BSE and Scrapie - both known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs).


Lawrence Alderson of Rare Breeds International points out that:

"Part of the sheep industry, with breeds claiming high scrapie resistance, have already embraced the Government's plan to eradicate the disease from the national flock, but the NST SG rightly points out that the industry may be insufficiently aware of the longer term implications. For example, the genotypes now trumpeted as scrapie resistant' (and likely to form the basis of many new breeding programmes in commercial flocks) may equally not be resistant, and may simply mask long-incubation scrapie. Of course, mutations also may arise which undermine the very assumptions of resistance upon which new breeding plans are based."


The NST SG, with links to a network of international expertise and opinion has maintained a dialogue with DEFRA policy makers and advisors.


The fact that it now makes a public call for caution speaks loudly on behalf of a threatened community  threatened, not by science itself, but by a brand of political expedience which represents less than the full picture - yet again!

Note to Editors


7        The NST SG was formally launched on 8 December 2001 and is made up of representatives of all the Breed Societies of the various breeds of Northern Short-tailed sheep and also represents the interests of other threatened breeds such as the Herdwick  famously associated with Beatrix Potter.


7        Northern Short-tailed sheep are among the primitive ancestors of the modern sheep industry and are a living reservoir of bio-diversity  providing important, irreplaceable genetic baselines and a unique platform for future study.


7        The Animal Health Bill may lead to the extinction of some breeds of sheep (or their reduction to relic groups) and is in direct contradiction of the Convention on Biological Diversity to which the UK was a signatory on 12 June 1992.


For further Information:


Peter Titley


Waltonhurst Lane


Stafford ST21 6JS


Telephone: - 01785 850183