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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 16:59 GMT
Farmers 'doing their bit' against virus spread
Farmers say they are working hard to prevent disease spread
There are strict regulations in place
Warwickshire farmer Adam Quinney answers back to accusations that farmers are flouting livestock transportation rules designed to stop the spread of disease.

Farmers are prepared to do their bit to stop the spread of animal disease from farm to farm.

Over the last 20 months we have seen rules published then to be changed within weeks, with promises that the final rules will be agreed soon.

That promise is still being repeated while there is the prospect of more interim rules to be announced this coming week.

DEFRA itself acknowledges that the first and most critical step to stop disease spreading into our national herds and flocks is to stop all imports of infected meat.

adam quinney
Adam Quinney: "The rules don't work"
This meat could come in legally, but unchecked, or most likely illegally.

So what has the new department of DEFRA done while farmers have been jumping through hoops?

Well two new sniffer dogs have been introduced at one airport, sadly both of these are now off sick.

DEFRA has also printed posters, although few passengers have seen them.

As farmers we have found animal movement rules do not work.

My farm is divided up by roads and woods.

If I were to buy a young calf from a neighbour and bring it the calf shed at one end of the farm, and within 20 days were to move an animal from the other end of the farm to market, with it never having been in contact with the calf, that would be illegal.

Yet if I were to live in Scotland I would be allowed to.

Drowning in paperwork

My neighbour could buy some cattle and place them in a field next to mine and this would not stop me from selling animals that had bumped noses with his stock.

What we desperately need are farm movement rules that actually do some good rather bury us in paper.

At the moment I fill in on average three government forms a day, with severe penalties if I am late completing the paperwork.

The "20-day rule " on animal movements can cause real problems.

We have wanted to sell some one-year-old female cattle for the last four months, there are buyers out there but we cannot move them off the farm apart for slaughter.

This is because we buy in calves every two weeks from local dairy farms, yet there is no disease risk in moving these animals.

The one window of opportunity was before Christmas, as we had not bought any calves for 20 days, but the farmer who wanted to buy them wanted to send some cattle to market the next week so could not have them.

It is interesting to note that stories concerning illegal movements or suspected cases of foot-and-mouth disease always seem to happen the week before discussions with DEFRA over animal movements!

If the farming community could see that serious efforts were being taken to stop foot-and-mouth coming back into the UK then we would have more faith in the movement regulations.



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17 Jan 03 | UK
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