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Assembly debates new Animal Disease Bill

15 September, 2008

The Second Stage of new legislation on animal diseases has today been agreed by the assembly and is on schedule to become law by Spring 2009.

The bill will enable stricter enforcement checks at ports, compulsory biosecurity measures at all livestock premises and contingency measures to swiftly contain and eradicate disease outbreaks. On-farm isolation facilities for diseased, suspected or imported animals will be compulsory and a fixed penalty system will apply to certain animal health offences.

Speaking after today's debate, Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA said:

"We are all aware of the threat to our livestock industry from diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Avian Flu and Bluetongue disease. Thankfully, by working in close co-operation with colleagues in the South, Britain and Brussels we have been able to avoid the devastating consequences of an outbreak of the diseases here in recent times. But we cannot be complacent. There is a lot more we can do to protect our industry and to deal with those diseases such as Bovine TB and Brucellosis which continue to impose significant and ongoing costs on both Government and industry."

Outlining the background to the bill, the minister continued:

"Our current Diseases of Animals Order dates back to 1981 and while it has served its purpose reasonably well, there are a number of areas where the measures available to prevent and control disease are inadequate. I am thinking specifically of areas such as emergency vaccination, regulation of imports and exports, on farm biosecurity standards and effective enforcement controls. The bill will address these matters and will enable the introduction of policies reflecting the latest developments in research and technology to trace and combat disease."

"I firmly believe that this bill will have a positive impact on the reputation of our agri food industry. It will enable swift and decisive action to be taken to deal with a disease outbreak, improve animal health standards generally and, perhaps most importantly, it recognises and offers additional protection for the many law abiding farmers who maintain high animal health standards on their farms and who do so much to enhance the reputation of our livestock industry at home and abroad." ENDS

Notes to Editors

The Diseases of Animals Bill will now be referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee who will carry out a detailed investigation into the detail of the bill and report back to the assembly.

The Diseases of Animals Bill and an Explanatory and Financial Memorandum are available on the Assembly website at:

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