Bad decisions by government – 23: closing veterinary surveillance centres as the Schmallenberg virus proliferates

Gordon Davidson in the Scottish Farmer reports that – at the British Veterinary Association’s annual dinner in London –  BVA president Carl Padgett reminded Defra minister Caroline Spelman of the dangers posed by her plan to close or amalgamate about half of the UK’s veterinary surveillance centres. 

This process, which is already well underway, will hamper the ability of DEFRA’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to study phenomena such as the Schmallenberg virus, thought to be carried by midges, which is causing miscarriages and birth deformities in farm animals. The volume of evidence coming from local AHVLA centres sending reports and test results from local veterinary laboratories will be considerably reduced. 

Very few reports show accurate pictures of the damage being done, instead showing healthy animals which might become infected. The Suffolk Sheep Society is an honourable exception (right). Adult animals can also be affected, cattle suffering  fever, milk yield reduction, and diarrhoea.

As positive cases have been identified on the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, West Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Cornwall few will disagree with Mr Padgett’s conclusion:

“Surely it makes sense to protect and enhance that system in the face of increased disease risk from climate change and international animal movements . . . Decisions made now will impact on our future ability to deliver that first line of defence and if we lose the infrastructure of our veterinary surveillance system it will almost certainly be impossible to rebuild.”

Posted on March 8, 2012, in Government and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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