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Bluetongue Update – Controls on imports

28 February, 2008


The Executive, following representations from Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA, have decided to impose emergency controls on imports of cattle and sheep from outside the island of Ireland.

The import controls are from 1800 hours on Saturday 1 March, for a limited period up to the 6 March, to protect animal health and welfare here.

The Minister today signed a declaration under the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) Regulations (NI) 2006 (as amended). This declaration means that from 1800 hours on Saturday 1 March imports of female cattle over 12 months of age and female sheep over six months of age from Bluetongue restricted zones will be suspended.

This decision follows developments at a farm in North Antrim, where the disease was detected and where the Department subsequently culled cattle.

The Minister has also informed the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, DEFRA, and Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in the South of Ireland.

Michelle Gildernew explained further:

"These controls bring us into line with the South and are in response to emerging science around how the Bluetongue virus might be transmitted and additional risks that might be posed by pregnant animals.

"The import controls are a proportionate response and are focused on ensuring that our Bluetongue disease free status stays intact. We will continue to maintain our rigorous testing system on those animals already imported.

"The additional import controls will remain in place until further notice and will be regularly reviewed in line with emerging science and developments in the EU Commission. Movements of animals will be permitted within the island of Ireland.

"In terms of the industry I will leave it to them to consider carefully whether they should adopt a complete voluntary ban in order to protect farming here. I would strongly advise and welcome that action. We must do everything we can to protect the North from this disease and this is the reason that I have introduced these measures.

"In response to the science emerging from the North Antrim case, the Commission held a special meeting of their European Bluetongue Experts Group yesterday in Brussels. The conclusions from this Group will be considered by Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) Committee next week.

"I am confident SCOFCAH will introduce effective measures in due course, but, I feel I have to anticipate the out-workings of this committee, and with my Executive colleagues am acting decisively now to protect our industry from this disease."

Any outstanding specific import licences for Breeding and Production animals from Britain will be revoked with effect from 1800 hours on Saturday 1 March 2008. Any importers wishing to import Breeding and Production animals from Britain should contact DARD Trade Section on 028 9052 4664 to obtain a new revised licence.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. Bluetongue disease was detected here on 17 February 2008 in cattle and calves on a farm in North Antrim. An outbreak is only confirmed when a country finds that the infection is circulating. Therefore at this time the North of Ireland remains officially Bluetongue disease free.
  2. An epidemiological investigation is ongoing.
  3. The Bluetongue leaflet and a Question and Answer guide is available on the DARD website.
  4. Bluetongue is an insect-borne viral disease to which all species of ruminants are susceptible, although sheep are most severely affected. However, cattle are the main mammalian reservoir of the virus and are very important in the epidemiology of the disease. It is characterised by changes to the mucous linings of the mouth and nose and the coronary band of the foot. Bluetongue is declared to be present in a country when it is confirmed by laboratory tests that the Bluetongue virus (BTV) is circulating in the animal population.
  5. Anyone who knows or suspects that any animal or carcase in his possession, under his charge or being examined or inspected by him is infected with Bluetongue is required under the Bluetongue Order (NI) 2003 to notify the Divisional Veterinary Office.
  6. Commission Regulation (EC) No 1266/2007 lays down the specific measures for control of Bluetongue.

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