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All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy agreed

31 March, 2010 - by Westminster

The All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy took a major step forward today when it was formally agreed at the Agriculture NSMC Sectoral meeting in Hillsborough.

The North South Ministerial Council Sectoral meeting on Agriculture and Rural Development was held at the Agri-Food and Biological Sciences Institute (AFBI) at Hillsborough. Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith TD agreed the strategy, paving the way to discussing it with key industry stakeholders from across the Island on 12 April 2010.

Announcing the strategy agreement, Minister Gildernew said: "My commitment to an All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy has been one of my key ministerial priorities since I came into office almost three years ago. All the hard work and determination to secure the strategy’s agreement has now paid off and today’s agreement is a significant step forward. It is recognised throughout this island that there are enormous benefits in an all-island approach to animal health and welfare. Ireland is renowned for the quality of its environment and the health of its livestock.

"North-South co-operation on animal health and welfare issues has the potential to help reduce and prevent the spread of animal disease as well as facilitate trade and improve the sustainability of farming. The free movement of animals on the island is a key priority and the All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is certainly the right vehicle to take this forward.

"We can now look ahead to the cross-border animal health and welfare stakeholder event at the Slieve Russell Hotel in County Cavan on 12 April. We will be bringing key stakeholders from both jurisdictions together for the first time to discuss the delivery of the strategy. This will be a milestone event for the strategy and I am very eager to hear as many viewpoints as possible on how we can implement today’s plans.

"I am particularly looking forward to welcoming the main speaker, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Mr John Dalli, to the stakeholder event.”

The Minister said that there have already been a number of positive outcomes as a result of North-South co-operation on animal health and welfare. These ranged from exchange of data to facilitate trade in bovine animals; alignment of border control policies aimed at preventing animal disease spread; and contingency planning for disease outbreaks including Foot and Mouth, Avian Flu and Bluetongue.

Minister Gildernew added: “I believe that co-operation of this nature will help international recognition of the quality of our products and will be good for marketing right across our industry. I am committed to ensuring this close level of co-operation continues.”

Other issues discussed at the North South Ministerial Council Meeting included the work in hand to bring forward a Welfare of Animals Bill in the north.

In conclusion the Minister said: “The progress the south has made towards eradicating Aujeszky’s disease is very good news. I now want our officials to work together on a joint timetable for achieving Annex 1 status, so that we can maximise the trade opportunities that recognition of disease freedom will bring. Progress towards the Mutual Recognition of Genotype Programmes is now at an advanced stage and is also a significant piece of work that our officials are taking forward.”

Minister Gildernew also hosted the NSMC Sectoral meeting in Aquaculture and Marine format at Hillsborough today. She was joined at the meeting by Minister of State for Natural Resources, Conor Lenihan TD. Accompanying Minister at both meetings was Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA.

At the Aquaculture and Marine sectoral meeting the Ministers discussed a number of issues including the Loughs Agency’s Draft Business Plan and Budget for 2010 and the monitoring of estuarine fish species in Lough Foyle. Ministers also approved a set of amendment regulations which prohibit the retention of salmon, sea trout and brown trout from specified stretches of the Rivers Finn and Foyle.

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