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Bluetongue case follows livestock export to Europe

News Section Icon Published 23/09/2007

Defra should investigate all potential vectors for the first ever case of bluetongue to the UK:

The resumption of live calf exports from Ipswich, Suffolk, at the end of August presents the possibility that ferries transporting live animals could have provided a route for midges, the carrier of this devastating disease, into this region of the UK from infected EU countries.

Ipswich provided a temporary alternative route for livestock exporters and importers recently, when maintenance prevented the use of the Port of Dover by livestock exporters.

It is shocking that the first ever case of bluetongue has been found in the UK, at a time when foot and mouth disease still threatens Britain's farmers. The link between the intensification of agriculture, together with the routine live transport of animals, and ever more regular cases of diseases being spread over long distances, must be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated in this, and other cases of disease.

As long as intensive farming and the transportation of live animals continues, diseases such as bluetongue and foot and mouth will continue to dictate the viability of Britain's farming sector.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), the global intergovernmental body dealing with agriculture, recently issued a damning report on the increased global risks posed by intensive agriculture, including the potential to spread disease through the movement of animals, people and vehicles to and from farming regions.

The FAO's clear message is that risk of disease and the generation of highly virulent strains of disease is increased by intensive livestock production. More than 100,000 calves were shipped abroad last year. Calves as young as two weeks old are shipped to The Netherlands and other EU countries to be reared in conditions that, in many cases, would be illegal in the UK.


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