SEPTEMBER 5, 2008: Bluetongue vaccine uptake has been as low as 50% in the livestock heartlands of south west and western England – despite campaigns urging producersto vaccinate animals and DEFRA’s insistence that uptake has been a morereasonable 70-80% nationally.

The JAB campaign had been calling for 90 per cent of livestock keepers to vaccinate to ensure the disease does not take hold in Britain.Now it is claimed Britain’s livestock industry is being put at risk by lax controlsagainst bluetongue abroad and by farmers’ reluctance here tovaccinate animals against the virus.Disease inspection procedures overseas and live animal shipments to the UK are under scrutiny after bluetongue was found in sheep imported from France and cattle imported from Germany.Andrew Praill, of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said there was no specific requirement for animals to be tested before they were imported. The only requirement was for a standard clinical inspection that the animal was disease-free and fit to travel.Any farmer who hadn’t yet done so should vaccinate immediately and think twice before importing livestock, said Mr Praill.Although the infected livestock escaped detection overseas, the disease was picked up during post-import testing carried out at DEFRA’s insistence on all bluetongue susceptible animals arriving from continental Europe.Mr Praill said he would be happier if there was more proactive disease monitoring on both sides of the English Channel. “If the domestic midge population becomes infected, it will be like creating airborne virus production factories,” he added.

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