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Minister Coughlan responds to new EU measures on Bluetongue

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., confirmed that new measures had been agreed at the EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) today in relation to movements of cattle and sheep out of bluetongue-restricted zones. The Minister said that these measures had been proposed by the Commission in response to her consistent criticism of the adequacy of existing conditions under which live animals had been allowed to be moved from bluetongue-restricted areas and which Ireland had opposed.

Minister Coughlan added that since the initial outbreak of bluetongue in member states in 2006, she and her Department had been determined to maintain Ireland's disease-free status. For that reason, she had consistently pressed the Commission to adjust the current movement measures to ensure that countries that are free of bluetongue would remain disease-free. The proposals that were agreed today in effect allow member states to ban until the end of this year, the importation from bluetongue restricted areas of all cattle and sheep over 90 days old unless they have been vaccinated or unless natural immunity to the disease can be demonstrated in such animals.

The Minister said that she would now review the unilateral measures she had introduced in February in the context both of the amendments agreed today and of the measures previously agreed in relation to pregnant animals. She expected that these measures will be formally adopted by the Commission and published officially in the next few days.

Minister Coughlan repeated her advice to farmers not to import livestock under any circumstances. She also confirmed that she and her officials were maintaining close contact with the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew in pursuing an all-island approach to the threat posed by the presence of bluetongue throughout Europe and Britain.

Date Released: 08 April 2008