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Potential amendments to EU Bluetongue directive

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Farmers in the UK will potentially be able to protect their livestock from Bluetongue using preventive vaccination within a Bluetongue free area for the first time after the EU announced proposals to amend its directive.

The news has been welcomed by the NFU which wanted farmers to be given the chance to use vaccination to protect their herds and flocks despite being in a BTV-free area. The change will potentially allow greater flexibility to member states to develop national vaccination strategies.

NFU chief livestock adviser John Mercer said: Currently member states are not allowed to vaccinate in Bluetongue-free areas so we are pleased that the Commission has looked at the situation and announced plans to amend the directive in order to allow preventative vaccination which will give us greater levels of protection within the UK.

The UK has not had a case of bluetongue since 2008, due in a large part to a very successful vaccination campaign. However, we have been reluctant to go down the route of gaining official bluetongue-free status as this would have meant farmers not having the option of being able to vaccinate their stock. With this proposal we may be able to gain Bluetongue disease-free status and still have the option to vaccinate against any potential outbreaks or emerging threats.

The situation in Europe has seen little bluetongue activity in the past year. However, it is very difficult to predict where new outbreaks may occur but vaccination still remains the only way to protect livestock from the debilitating disease which affects both sheep and cattle.

Mr Mercer added: We will now wait for the Commission to discuss the amendment and provide more information. We will then work with Defra to look at the finer details and workings of the proposal and looking at the potential options available to us.

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