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BVA Congress - President Contemplates Long Term Future For Agriculture

15 years ago

28th September, 2006 00h00

Speaking at the start of its Annual Congress in London this evening (Thursday) British Veterinary Association (BVA) President Dr Freda Scott-Park welcomed the ‘Let’s work in partnership’ sentiments expressed recently by David Miliband, Secretary of State for Defra but noted that it was only too evident that veterinary matters were low on the priority list of people to meet and issues to solve. “Which”, she said “is strange really since much of the year has been dominated by ‘exotic’ disease; not in the way that Foot and Mouth Disease swept through the country in 2001 but in threats here and there. Avian influenza of the H5N1 variety arriving in Western Europe but stopping short at the shores of Scotland in early April . ‘A useful exercise’ was the comment from all, except those poultry farmers whose livelihoods were challenged. Avian influenza - this time H7N3, confirmed on 28 April in Norfolk; low pathogenic - another useful exercise. As we slip into autumn when birds fly this way and that, we welcome the increased surveillance that was recently announced by the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) but the question must be asked: will it be the same virus that we briefly flirted with last year? “In mid-June of this year a near neighbour, the Republic of Ireland (RoI) reported, for the first time, cases of Equine Infectious Anaemia. Northern Ireland reported an outbreak in Londonderry that started in late August 2006 and was first confirmed at the beginning of September 2006. Then in August bluetongue was found in northern Europe. A disease spread by a tiny vector - the Culicoides midge, numerous in Great Britain and well able to spread disease to our sheep flocks and cattle herds but a surprising serotype - Type 8 - seen to date only in sub-Saharan Africa. “As we have body swerved these outbreaks, relationships have been strengthened and there has been an outbreak of partnership between Defra and its stakeholders. The approach, both here and in the devolved administrations, to both avian influenza and bluetongue has been exemplary and the stakeholder groups have felt fully engaged. “However, this partnership is to be severely tested over the forthcoming months as the Joint Industry Government Working Group (JIGWG to its friends) gets to grips with the widely quoted concept of cost sharing: that’s the short hand for Sharing Responsibilities and Costs of Exotic Animal Disease. There needs to be a common approach to this concept across the UK and the JIGWG is about to expand its membership to include the devolved administrations, all the while remembering that Europe is developing its own strategy at the same time. “The overriding objective for sharing responsibility and costs between industry and Government must be to achieve better management of animal disease risks so that the overall risks and costs are reduced. There is an opportunity for the farming industry to work with veterinary surgeons to ensure that disease risks are managed effectively while recognising that there is a considerable degree of variation between the livestock sectors. For instance the biosecurity of intensive pig and poultry sectors are highly developed while grazing sheep and cattle may pose a greater threat to disease containment. Where cost-sharing schemes exist, in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, they seem to have led farmers to take on more responsibility. “But let us be very clear that there is a fine line between cost sharing and total cost recovery. Any cost sharing agreement must be affordable and must be clearly defined. The debate will now rage as the JIGWG considers what diseases should be included. There is mention from Europe that endemic diseases may be included. This has a particular significance for England, Wales and Northern Ireland as the dialogue on how to reduce the incidence of bovine TB continues. “David Miliband believes that agriculture is important for Great Britain’s cultural heritage, economy and society and also for the environment. He believes disease control should be balanced with animal welfare. He attaches importance to reaching a “fair balance” between consumers, farmers, manufacturers and retailers. If he really means that the Government is open for a serious debate about the long term future of the agricultural industry then perhaps there will be an industry for the veterinary surgeons of the future to serve. “

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