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Gildernew announces stronger Bluetongue import controls

6 May, 2008


Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has announced that she is replacing the suspension of the imports of certain animals with new controls authorised by recent European Commission amendments to the Bluetongue Regulations.

The Minister said:

"I have been raising my concerns about the European Bluetongue Regulations since the North Antrim case in February demonstrated the risk posed by the importation of pregnant animals. I am pleased that the Commission has taken those concerns fully on board."

"I also welcome the additional controls that the Commission has introduced to allow Member States to apply a derogation and to impose stronger movement controls."

The EU Commission's two recently published amendments to the rules for the movements of animals address: (a) the risk of the spread of Bluetongue by pregnant animals; and (b) subject to derogation, allow only cattle, sheep and goats that are less than ninety days old or that have proven natural or vaccinated immunity to Bluetongue to be imported from Bluetongue restricted areas. This second amendment will be effective until 31 December 2008 when it may be reviewed by the Commission.

The Minister added:

"I am planning to introduce the derogation this week, as soon as it is granted by the Commission"

The Minister said that she and her southern counterpart, Mary Coughlan TD, had discussed the issue at their North South Ministerial Council meeting last week, saying: "We are equally determined to do all that we can to keep the island of Ireland Bluetongue-free."

The Minister, however, reminded farmers not to take risks when purchasing animals noting that the most likely route of Bluetongue virus coming here is through imported stock. She urged all farmers to heed the call from the UFU for a voluntary ban of all imports from areas affected by Bluetongue.

Notes to Editors

  1. 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.
  2. The Bluetongue leaflet and a Question and Answer guide is available online at: http://www.dardni.gov.uk/index/animal-health/animal-diseases/bluetongue.htm
  3. The Minister imposed a suspension on the imports of certain cattle and sheep in response to concerns which were raised following a case of Bluetongue in North Antrim. As the virus was not circulating this did not constitute an outbreak and therefore at this time the North of Ireland remains officially Bluetongue disease free.
  4. Anyone who knows or suspects that any animal or carcass in his possession, under his charge or being examined or inspected by him is infected with Bluetongue is required under the Bluetongue Order (NI) 2008 to notify the Divisional Veterinary Office.
  5. Commission Regulation (EC) No 1266/2007 lays down the specific measures for control of Bluetongue.

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