LONDON – Restrictions will be lifted on exporting sheep and cattle from Great Britain that were put in place because of bluetongue disease, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK.
The restrictions were imposed in 2007, following the first cases of bluetongue in Great Britain.

“This is great news for farmers – and it’s an achievement by farmers too,” Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said. “This is the result of a strong and successful partnership between government, farmers and vets to eradicate this serious disease.

“Our new Animal Health and Welfare Board for England is building on this partnership approach to create a better way to tackle animal diseases,” he added. “There have been no new cases of bluetongue in Britain for two years, but farmers and vets need to remain vigilant and continue to be careful of animals they import.”

Bluetongue-free status means animals exported from Great Britain to bluetongue-free countries, mainly the Republic of Ireland, won’t require vaccination, or meet any other bluetongue requirements.

The disease is not currently found in Britain’s neighboring countries, and animals entering Great Britain from bluetongue zones will continue to meet stringent import conditions. testing of imported animals will be maintained from high-risk countries.

Once Great Britain is declared bluetongue-free, livestock keepers will no longer be able to vaccinate under EU law. The government is pressing for changes to be made at European level to allow farmers to use vaccination even when bluetongue zones aren’t in place. Bluetongue-free status will take effect July 5, so any farmers wishing to vaccinate should do so before this date.