Saturday, 3 November 2007

Scotland the brave

The virus-carrying midges of Northern Europe, deterred and terrified by brave words from the Scots farming union bosses, are going to make a U turn at Hadrian's Wall.
Scotland is a country where midges are virtually unknown.

None of this is true, alas, but to hear a spokesman for the Scottish Beef Cattle Association, evidently appalled that his English counterpart advocates a survival package that would bring Scotland into the Surveillance zone, you would think that it was. He says,
"The SBCA could not be party to a policy which could expose the Scottish livestock industry to this most dreadful disease."
The National Beef Association, the British Pedigree Beef Society's Group, the Livestock Auctioneers Association, and British Camelids are trying to do something to defend their members and protect the animals. They have all asked the Chief Vets of England, Scotland and Wales - in a bid to rescue their members from the consequences of the DEFRA restrictions -
  • to extend the protection zone to cover the whole of Great Britain - or at least
  • to allow the movement of pre-tested pedigree stock from a protection zone to a free zone,
  • and to make sure that the use of an inactivated BTV vaccine does not result in trade barriers being erected against vaccinated stock.
(Actually this is likely to happen the other way round, Vaccinated stock will be at a premium. In Spain a vaccinated calf makes on average 100 EUROS more on the market than an unvaccinated calf.)

NBA director, Kim Haywood says of the four organisations:
"They want to see a compulsory vaccination programme for GB and full government backing for a European Community vaccination policy that covers all Member States."
A compulsory scheme would, of course, be ideal. All the same, even - best case scenario - with Intervet and Merial pulling out all the stops following firm committed orders, no one knows how far vaccine supplies are going to be able to stretch and it is still of vital importance that all the affected governments work together to ensure that vaccine policies are in line with EU requirements. We want to make sure that the pot of funding available from EU taxpayers can be shared by all who need it. Scotland is not included in DEFRA's tendering for vaccine supplies (nor is Wales) and one hopes that they will not assume invulnerability to the point that they fail to make quick and urgent orders for vaccine.

Dan Buglass in today's Scotsman writes,

"Scotland is perceived to be less at risk because of its cooler climate and more northerly latitude..."

"Perceived to be at less risk by whom?" one wonders wearily. Do they really not remember that the rest of the UK was saying that a little while ago too. Indeed, Debby Reynolds said much the same thing on the Today Programme on the 19 Aug 2006. When the Dutch authorities had identified the presence of the blue tongue virus in the Netherlands, our CVO said that although it was "a significant development" the risk to British sheep was "low overall".

For Scotland to stand similarly aloof, assuming that this is a disease that can only affect them if infected animals come into Scotland from elsewhere, is bravado on a par with that of King Canute.

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