UNITED KINGDOM — Among major changes proposed by the U.K.’s Environment Secretary Hilary Benn in a new bill on animal health is a new body to take responsibility for animal health, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (D.E.F.R.A.).

Other measures in the draft Animal Health Bill, which has been written following extensive public consultation, include:

? Making statutory the role of chief veterinary officer (U.K.), based at D.E.F.R.A.

? A new chief veterinary officer for England.

? Widening existing powers in England and Wales to collect and test veterinary samples and to vaccinate animals.

? Simplifying payments for slaughtered animals or property seized or destroyed for disease control purposes in England and Wales.

? The proposed animal health organization would be led by an independent chair and board.

The U.K. government has also consulted on proposals for the livestock sector to pay some of the costs of animal-disease monitoring and prevention, which are currently met by D.E.F.R.A. These cost-sharing measures will be introduced under a future finance bill. Cost and responsibility sharing for the livestock industry was recommended by Sir Iain Anderson in his report on the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease (F.M.D.) outbreak.

“Outbreaks of animal disease are bad for everyone – animals, their keepers, and for society,” Mr. Benn said. “Protecting animals and people from the effects of potentially devastating diseases like F.M.D., bluetongue and African Horse Sickness costs the public about £400 million [US$645 million] a year.

“The proposals we are putting forward are in response to Sir Iain Anderson’s report on the 2001 F.M.D. outbreak,” he added. “I believe that a partnership through the new animal-health body — where the industry can contribute to decisions about animal health — will produce better management of disease and reduce overall risks and costs. This approach was very successful in tackling bluetongue, where industry and the government developed a vaccination policy together and shared the cost of the vaccine.

“This bill will therefore set up a joint government-industry body to make animal-health decisions in future,” he continued. “Proposals for cost sharing will come forward in a future finance bill.”