EU agriculture ministers reject calls for mass animal vaccination whilst UK and Netherlands lobby for urgent review of animal health policy
The EU has defended its policy of slaughtering and destroying all affected livestock and those in danger of contracting the virulent disease as the best possible approach to eradicate FMD. It believes that vaccination can and should play a limited role in containment.
The main contention behind not adopting a general vaccination policy is that the EU would lose its disease free status and thus lose lucrative export markets. In addition, there is currently no test to distinguish which animals have been inoculated and vaccination only provides limited protection (6 months) against one of seven strains of FMD.
The German and Dutch agriculture ministers, Renate KýLaurens-Jans Brinkhorst, would have liked to see the adoption of a vaccination scheme at the meeting. The two ministers are questioning whether the policy of eradication through slaughter was still appropriate. Animal welfare is high on the political agenda in their respective countries within the number of animals being slaughtered and destroyed rapidly rising and the disease still spreading.
European Union agriculture ministers rejected calls for mass animal vaccination on 9 April whilst the United Kingdom and the Netherlands lobbied for an urgent review of animal health policy in response to the current foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) crisis. The ministers agreed at the informal agriculture meeting in stersund, Sweden that the priority was to get the epidemic under control and win back Europe's disease free status.
More than 1,100 cases of FMD have been confirmed in the UK since the disease was first discovered on 19 February. The disease has since spread to neighbouring Ireland, France and recently the Netherlands. The Netherlands has already vaccinated over 115,000 animals in an attempt to form a firewall around affected farms. The UK has opted not to use a limited emergency vaccination scheme.
The EU's Standing Veterinary Committee will meet on 12 April to continue their discussions of foot-and-mouth disease. Agriculture ministers will formally meet on the 24 and 25 of April and will re-examine the EU's limited vaccination policy.