Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:15 pm, 7th October 2002

I do not disagree with that. The Uruguayan vaccination campaign to control foot and mouth was confined to cattle. The disease that we experienced in the UK was spread almost entirely by sheep and sheep movements. Obviously there are sheep in Uruguay, but the Uruguayans did not include the vaccination of sheep—which is, of course, much more difficult, particularly with our topography—in their campaign. They were successful in dealing with the outbreak by vaccinating cattle because the disease at that point was still only in cattle and therefore only a relatively small number of diseased animals and those close to them had to be destroyed.

However, we cannot immediately transfer that experience to the British outbreak or any potential future European outbreak. The vaccination science and vaccination operations are not as clear cut as some of the comments made in the debate would suggest. Indeed, as Anderson said, in moving more substantially to vaccination there are hurdles to overcome and the science is not clear, as my noble friend Lord Carter said. Quite apart from that, many farmers and other operators have extreme doubts about adopting the vaccination strategy.

However, we accept the view of the Royal Society and Anderson, and the putative view of the European committee, that we should be prepared to consider vaccination as part of the immediate strategy rather than as a last resort strategy. However, there is no analogue of any control of the disease which is exactly equivalent, or anywhere close to equivalent, of the sheep-carried disease which we dealt with in this country.

There are also the operational difficulties to which I referred in my remarks to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, during a previous intervention. There are issues as to whether vaccinated meat would be acceptable to the trade, both domestically and internationally.