British cattle markets reopen after approval of EU Veterinary Committee

The European Union has lifted the last remaining foot-and-mouth restrictions on British meat exports, after a favourable vote of the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) on 6 February 2002. The UK government said cattle markets will reopen next week under strict hygiene standards.

The Standing Veterinary Committee, composed of national experts, unanimously voted in favour of a European Commission proposal to lift the last remaining restrictions on British exports of live sheep and goats, which had been put in place after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, as there have been no new cases of the disease since 30 september 2001. On 21 January, the Office International des Epizooties declared Britain “FMD-free without vaccination”. However, Commission decision 2001/327, which will now be applicable in the UK, foresees an isolation period of 30 days for sheep and goats before dispatch to other Member States.

The farming and meat industries welcomed the lift, but warned that it would take a long time to rebuild lost markets. British environment secretary Margaret Beckett said the government would review contingency plans to deal with future foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

 

The British National Farmers' Union stated that farmers must recognise the need for the industry to change.

Lord Whitty , the British Agriculture Minister, declared that a balance must be found between the needs of industry and the veterinary advice that some disease control precautions are still necessary. "This is not going back to the way things were," Lord Whitty said. "It is a step by step process and is based on a thorough assessment of the risks; the measures on livestock movements are still interim and discussions of the long-term arrangements will continue."

 

British pigmeat exports last year were mainly to the EU and were valued at £183 million for 214,000 tonnes of meat. In 2001, the highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease hit more than 2,000 farms in Britain and led to the slaughter of nearly four million animals.

Some regions, that had no outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or remained free of the disease for more than three months, were already allowed to resume limited trading last year (see

EURACTIV, 5 Dec 2001andEURACTIV, 26 Oct 2001).

 

The prohibition will be lifted once the Commission has formally adopted the proposal.

 

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