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Minister Smith Repeats Advice Against Livestock Imports Following Cases of Bluetounge Serotype 1 in England

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today referred to the recent confirmation of bluetongue (BTV1) in imported cattle on a farm in England.

The Minister said that while this is the first case of BTV1 in England, this serotype had been confirmed previously in the EU and particularly in the south of France from where the English cases had been imported. The affected animals had been culled on a precautionary basis and the UK authorities have indicated that there is no evidence that BTV1 is circulating in the UK.

These new cases and the ongoing confirmation of BTV6 and BTV8 in several member states mean that there are still a number of strains of the bluetongue virus circulating in the EU. Minister Smith said that while there are EU controls on animals moving from bluetongue restricted zones to clear areas, the existence of several strains of bluetongue increased the risks and raised serious concerns about the wisdom of importing any animals from affected regions at this time. These controls are discussed on an ongoing basis at the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) and Ireland continues to press for improved protection for clear areas at that forum. This issue will be discussed again at this week's meeting of SCOFCAH.

Notwithstanding the movement requirements, the Minister said that imports from restricted zones continued to represent a real risk to the entire Irish livestock sector. "For this reason, I strongly urge farmers here not to import animals from any bluetongue affected country or region so as not to jeopardise our disease free status with its consequences for our entire livestock sector", the Minister said.

In conclusion, the Minister said that all imports of susceptible animals from bluetongue affected areas will continue to be tested. Furthermore, he confirmed that any such animals found BTV positive to a PCR test will now be slaughtered and that there are no compensation arrangements in place in the case of such slaughter. Consequently, farmers and others should be aware of the possible financial risks that they may be exposed to in addition to the risk that imports may pose to the national herd.

Date Released: 26 November 2008