NFU calls for bluetongue import ban

The NFU has called on the Government to ban imports of livestock from the bluetongue areas of Northern Europe following the discovery of the disease in a consignment of 20 cattle imported from the Netherlands.

It appears that the cattle were not tested before they left the relevant bluetongue protection and surveillance zone. The importer then failed to inform Defra of the consignment, and as a result the animals were not tested on entry to the UK.

An NFU spokesman said that even though the law had clearly been broken, the incident had exposed a loophole in the UK's disease precautions.

"This is the second time in a week that animals infected with bluetongue have been imported. Until such time as arrangements are in place to prevent this sort of thing happening, the only safe course of action is to ban all imports of livestock from the bluetongue infected areas.

"British livestock farmers have put up with huge disruption and inconvenience in order to contain the disease and so make it more likely that it can be eliminated quickly and completely once a vaccine becomes available.

"We cannot allow our sacrifice to be undermined by disease being spread far and wide by infected animals imported from abroad."