Byline: DAVID McCOY
HOLLAND'S Minister for Agriculture has come out in favour of vaccination in any new Foot-and-Mouth Disease crisis.
At a public hearing in the European Parliament this week, the Dutch Minister, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst told the Foot-and-Mouth Committee that, in the event of another FMD crisis, authorities would probably have to decide to resort to emergency vaccination and let the animals live instead of adopting a policy of massive destruction.
By implementing EU non-vaccination rules, the FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom had been brought under control from a veterinary point of view, but feelings had been running high and there had been a massive opposition from the public and farmers.
He said that a high price had been paid: a quarter of the farmers involved were still suffering from depression and half of them had lost faith in social justice.
Mr Brinkhorst said he had told the European Commission, too, that the price EU policy had made society pay had been too high.
As it was highly probable that the EU would sooner or later once again be confronted with another FMD outbreak, it now was the responsibility of the Commission and the Member States to make the right decisions about vaccination.
Marker vaccinations and differentiation tests could prevent pre-emptive slaughter with the emphasis on controlling infection. These tests, developed by Akzo Nobel, will be formally presented to the Commission in September.
Mr Brinkhorst took the view that these instruments would enable the authorities to determine which animals were infected and which had been vaccinated, so that the restrictions could be lifted sooner.
He urged that the official non-vaccination policy should be replaced by a new and effective policy, which at any rate would permit the effective use of emergency vaccination during a crisis.
The committee's rapporteur, the German MEP, Wolfgang Kreissl-Drfler, doubted if the United States and Japan would still allow vaccinated EU meat to be imported to their markets.
The Minister replied that, even if meat from vaccinated animals were considered as 'inferior', there would still be a market for it inside and outside the EU and particularly in African countries.
Representatives of Dutch and Belgian farmers and SME organisations also explained to MEPs the serious consequences the FMD crisis had had for their sectors.
Earlier, Irish, UK and Belgian experts had appeared before the Committee to inform members about the veterinary services in the Member States and contingency planning.
Sean O'Laoide, president of the Irish Veterinary Association, explained the role Irish vets had played when the FMD crisis struck Ireland.
He voiced concern about the decreasing number of students being trained for the veterinary profession.
Dr Gareth Davies, Member of the UK Government FMD Scientific Committee, took the view that the time was ripe for the creation of a European Veterinary Staff College.
He argued that most veterinary undergraduate studies barely touched sanitary and phytosanitary regulations. …