NATIONAL BEEF ASSOCIATION

(Press release - No embargo)
September 24th 2002 Government plans to manage the next FMD epidemic must include detailed and pre-agreed strategies to maintain slaughter cattle deliveries, a properly constructed welfare disposal scheme for stock trapped in Blue Box areas, and full compensation for all compulsorily slaughtered animals, the National Beef Association said today.

It is worried that the government has already forgotten the severe logistical problems that surfaced in the immediate aftermath of the last outbreak and wants detailed advance arrangements to counter these to be integrated into its emergency action scheme.

"There will be a national freeze on all animal movement as soon as the disease is discovered but once the depth of its spread is apparent the delivery of as many slaughter cattle as possible into the food chain must be a national priority," said NBA chief executive, Robert Forster.

"Last year's experience shows that the movement of prime cattle on a one way ticket to slaughter were in the low risk category and once control areas, like Blue Boxes, have been established at the core of the outbreak all finished animals lying outside their boundaries should be free for abattoir delivery."

"This means advance plans to secure EU and retail agreement on the adoption of the round carcase stamp used in FMD emergencies must be in place. The government should be aiming for a national red meat delivery system to be fully installed within seven days of the disease once again being confirmed.

And the NBA has already challenged Defra's insistence that compensation will not be available for any stock surrendered into a welfare disposal scheme for slaughter.

"If Blue Boxes, or Restricted Infected Areas (RIAs), which allow no animal movement whatsoever are to be the key control point then welfare provision will have to be made for animals trapped inside them," said Mr Forster.

"Experience last autumn, when the effectiveness of the Blue Box system was confirmed, showed they can be in place for weeks on end. In those circumstances provision must be made for welfare relief and it is impossible to think that owners giving up animals on properly defined welfare grounds as a result of compulsory movement restriction will not be compensated." P2)

"But we are even more worried about the government's preference for a standard valuation for animals slaughtered on infected premises. We appreciate its wish to avoid overcompensation but if it really wants to learn a lesson from the last epidemic it must establish an effective compensation system in advance instead of constructing one in great haste at the peak of the emergency and regretting its decision later."

"It should set up a blueprint which takes into account inflation caused by competing valuers as well as the need for speedy valuation without imposing a restrictive standard valuation which does not properly take account of the wide price variation that exists within the same species and same type of animals," Mr Forster added.

For further information contact:

Robert Forster, NBA chief executive. Tel. 01830 520 131