Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Department of Agriculture and Food

Bovine Diseases

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Question 77: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied the contingency arrangements are adequate to deal with an outbreak of bluetongue; if he proposes to introduce additional measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20323/09]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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A contingency plan for the control of bluetongue disease has been drawn up, as required under EU legislation. Operational details in the plan include the drawing of control, protection and surveillance zones around the infected holding, with associated movement restrictions within and between these zones, the confining of animals indoors, the control and eradication of the vector by use of insecticides, entomological surveillance (light traps) and vaccination over a period of years.

All involved in the livestock sector have an obligation in the national interest to ensure that Ireland remains bluetongue free. The highest risk of the introduction of bluetongue into Ireland is via an imported animal.

In this regard I have a threefold message for all importers. Firstly, they should not import any animals from bluetongue affected areas. By so doing they are putting their farms and the entire industry in jeopardy. Certain types of imports are permitted but while the controls in place under the EU legislation reduce the risk of bluetongue spread, they cannot guarantee freedom from the risk of introducing infection. This is further complicated by the presence of various strains of bluetongue virus on the Continent. Vaccinating against one particular strain does not protect an animal from another strain which may be circulating.

Secondly, if cattle and sheep importers choose to ignore this advice and import animals from bluetongue affected areas on the Continent, a two test regime for these animals will apply following their import into Ireland. The first test is at the importers expense, to be carried out by his private Veterinary practitioner and is to take place on the farm of destination on day 1 post import. The second test takes place on day 7 post import also on the farm, and is carried out by Veterinarians from my Department's local office. The introduction of this second test may allow earlier detection of an infected animal.

Thirdly - should the results of these tests show that the imported animal is bluetongue virus positive, it will be immediately slaughtered without compensation. Importers should be aware of the financial exposure as well as the disease risk they are facing both to their own herd and to the national herd.

Similar measures are in place in Northern Ireland which is also bluetongue free. All bluetongue disease information can be found on the dedicated page of my Department's website: www.bluetongue.ie.

In summary, I am satisfied that we have appropriate contingency arrangements in place to deal with an outbreak of bluetongue. However, I believe that we must continue to focus on keeping the disease out of Ireland. In this context I would hope that no-one would import animals from bluetongue affected areas.

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