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UFU President Sets Out Bluetongue Facts

24 April 2009

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) President Graham Furey recently outlined the UFU's firm stance on the need to keep Northern Ireland Bluetongue free.

"The only reason for highlighting the sheep sector at this time was the significant increase in the numbers of imported sheep over the last few weeks– just look at the numbers; 1600 in the past month", he says. "Indeed recently I have publicly highlighted our extreme concern about a specific case of the importation of cattle destined for ROI.

"Secondly, I made absolutely no suggestion that importers were acting illegally. Indeed it is a source of much regret to both the Minister and veterinary officials that they do not have the power to ban the import of potentially disease carrying livestock. Rather we have been appealing to the good sense of individuals to put the well being of the industry before their own particular self interests.

"Some correspondents also seems to believe that vaccination is the answer to all our problems. I must disagree on several counts:

"Firstly, the current annual vaccination cost for the cattle and sheep sectors is estimated at up to £4 million annually;

"Secondly, this cost does not take into account the considerable extra work and hassle which individual farmers would have to undertake to ensure an effective vaccination regime;

"Thirdly, as an exporting region, of both stock and produce, we’ve already seen the damage which can be done to our ability to trade when you are deemed a region where disease is prevalent – the annual cost to NI is estimated at £25m;

"Fourthly, the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in NI have highlighted that imported animals, although vaccinated, are not entirely free from risk as they may still be incubating virus and would therefore be able to transmit disease via contact with midges to indigenous cattle and sheep and therefore allow disease to spread. There is also the risk posed by other Bluetongue serotypes.

"These are fundamental reasons why our calls for no live animal imports are justified. And we have discussed and agreed all these issues in detail with DARD, breed societies, veterinary representatives and other stakeholders. I am urging all farmers not to be complacent about Bluetongue."

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