DARD Gets Tough on Disease Control

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD MULLIGAN

THE Department of Agriculture is to get tough on Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) and Brucellosis (BR) in an attempt to curb the potential threat of a significant disease outbreak in Northern Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture at Stormont, Ian Pearson, announced this week the Department would be spending an estimated pounds 43 million on the TB and BR control programmes this year.

He said the costs reflected the increased incidence of the diseases in Northern Ireland and the amount of compensation paid.

The announcement, one of many listed to tackle what has been an increasing problem in the Province and which are aimed on making a substantial reduction to incidences of the diseases, were made as a result of the outcome of DARD consultations on the TB and BR Policy Reviews.

As revealed in FL2 last week the Department are also to tighten restrictions on overdue tests and an extension of powers.

"In 2002, my Department carried out a formal evaluation of its control policies on TB and Brucellosis. The final reports were published and issued for consultation in July 2002. The reviews recommended a package of measures which if implemented would assist in DARD's control of both diseases.

In his statement on the outcome of the consultations Mr Pearson indicated there had been a broad support from consultees for the majority of the proposals, though he recognised there were also some reservations and concerns expressed.

The Minister said: "Having carefully considered all the information available to me, I believe that the revised control programmes we are embarking on will lead to a substantial reduction in disease incidence and to the eventual eradication of Brucellosis and the effective long-term control of TB.

"I have today announced the first phase of measures in the revised control programmes for these diseases. I have asked my officials to take forward the necessary implementation planning work, in consultation with stakeholders, to ensure that these measures are implemented during 2003/04 in as practical a way as possible. This work will take account of the need for state aid approval and equality impact assessment."

Mr Pearson said he was confident that additional resources were available this year to implement the first phase of measures arising from the Reviews. "In the coming months, I will be considering the need for further measures to control TB and Brucellosis. Given the levels of TB and Brucellosis here, and the need for increased vigilance by everyone, it is increasingly important that we work together with the farming industry to tackle these diseases," he said.

Badgers have always been high on agendas during discussions on the prevention of the disease spread and Mr Pearson said he recognised the wide ranging concerns that were expressed in the consultation.

He has decided to set up an expert group to review the badger studies that have been carried out in the Republic of Ireland, along with all other relevant information available so far from the Krebs study in Great Britain and research in badgers undertaken in Northern Ireland.

Consultation on the Review recommendations ended in October 2002, and 16 substantive written responses were received.

Some of the measures outlined require changes in legislation and the Department intends to have the necessary subordinate legislation in place by the end of 2003/04, to be followed by implementation of the measures from April 2004.

For Brucellosis specifically, the new measures are:

l Annual testing;

l Pre-movement testing;

l On-farm housing and movement restrictions;

l Six months' gap between depopulation and restocking;

l Setting up of a working group to re-evaluate diagnostic tests;

l Review of the Brucellosis legislation;

l Barcoding of test samples;

For TB specifically, the new measures are:

l Tighter restrictions on overdue tests, including the introduction of a 12-month certificate which will give farmers the date their test expires;

l Review of the current testing arrangements;

l Setting up of an expert group to review all the information available from badger studies carried out in GB, the ROI and in NI;

l Setting up of a working group to review the use of the Gamma Interferon blood test for TB in Northern Ireland;

l Highlighting the importance of boundary fencing as part of good biosecurity practice;

l Increasing the resource allocated to TB testing by employing additional Temporary Veterinary Officers. …