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Cattle: Imports

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will reduce the number of cattle imported into the UK in order to reduce the risk of further spread of bluetongue. (178982)

Under the EU bluetongue regulation, susceptible animals are permitted to move out of restricted zones into free areas for intra-community trade, provided an official veterinarian of the exporting country certifies that all the necessary conditions have been met. In most cases, animals must undergo pre-movement testing and these tests must indicate negative results for virus infection. Importers also have a responsibility to import only those animals which comply with the rules and to notify Animal Health in advance of the movement; we have written to importers to remind them of their responsibilities. Animals are also permitted to move freely within the same zones established in each country, such as from the Netherlands protection zone to the UK protection zone. The UK cannot prohibit imports of animals moved in accordance with these conditions.

The recent incidents of bluetongue-positive animals being imported to the UK may highlight inadequacies in the application of these measures in EU member states. We are in contact with the relevant member state officials to establish how these animals arrived in the UK, and we have written and spoken to the Commission to ask for appropriate measures to be taken to ensure such movements are managed safely.