The National Sheep Association (NSA) and Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS) have come together to highlight the need for Defra to prioritise animal health and disease surveillance as it handles the latest round of Government cuts.
The two organisations acknowledge the huge difficulties facing the many Government departments affected by this latest round of austerity, but say certain elements must takes very high priority in the ongoing budget that Defra is left with.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “In these times of austerity Defra will have to prioritise, and we feel it is essential the continuing development and support of export markets is very high up that list. The boost to the national economy that increasing exports can bring is reliant on us being able to give confidence to those markets through high animal health status within our borders. Animal health, disease and surveillance are essential to protect the efficiency of the livestock sector, to protect our export markets, and to protect public health from zoonoses. NSA would also like to see efforts continue to cut red tape for farmers, as this in an area where Defra could actually free up money for areas of high priority.”
SVS shares this concern about disease surveillance, highlighting 2015 as the 150-year anniversary of the State Veterinary Service and the numerous exotic disease outbreaks that have been identified and countered during that time. This has become increasingly important as globalisation, frequent air travel and enlarged EU markets for free trade continue to provide the potential for animal diseases to spread if not monitored and checked.
Tim Bebbington, SVS President, says: “Surveillance for new and emerging diseases and action to control them will be severely compromised as the State Veterinary Service virtually evaporates. Already cuts have been widespread and deep; we barely have enough capability now and further cuts will destroy it. If the Government is relying on private veterinary practice to provide emergency manpower at times of need it will be disappointed. The new OV contractual arrangements have eroded any lingering goodwill towards the managers of the State Veterinary Service.”