Sunday, August 09, 2009

Scotland goes it alone ..

... maybe.
It was reported last week that Scotland was exploring the possibility of applying to the EU Commission for TB free status.
Farmers Weekly reports;
Scotland is set to capitalise on its low incidence of bovine tuberculosis by applying to the EU Commission for TB-free status.

Only the reservations of auctioneers and meat wholesalers have delayed the Scottish government from applying for "Officially Tuberculosis Free" status.

The rest of the industry, including the country's chief vet, Simon Hall, have appeared keen to adopt even tighter measures to keep the disease at bay and give Scotland an edge over the rest of the UK.

Although Scotland's TB is low, according to PQs, to achieve this hallowed status, the following criteria must be met:
Bovine tuberculosis is notifiable in the country.

99.8 per cent of the herds in the considered geographical area have been officially free from bovine tuberculosis for at least the past three years as disclosed be the periodic testing of all cattle in the area to determine the absence of bovine tuberculosis.

If and when periodic testing of all cattle reveals that 99.9 percent of tested candidates have been in herds officially free of tuberculosis for at least six years, then testing is not required. (20th Nov 2003. Col 1205W [140308]
Data must also collected in a manner of which the EU approves; see also:
"The United Kingdom does not satisfy the requirements of the OIE or the EU to be TB free". ( 16th Dec 2003. Col 821W [ 142000)

In 2008, Scotland recorded 13,854 herds on its VetNet database of which 70 had experienced a TB restriction during the year. That is not 0.2 percent of herds, it is 0.5 percent. And even if Scotland's equivalent of Defra, propose only CNI (Confirmed New Incidents) as they frequently do for GB's data, the figure is still 0.35 percent, almost double the incidence needed for TB free status accreditation.

So although Scotland, from an English viewpoint is in an enviable position with this disease's incidence, it is nowhere near the 99.8 percent required for TB free status, as defined in OIE and EU statute.

South of the border during 2008, GB achieved 9.3 percent of its herds under TB restriction at some time during the year. But from the EU quoted TB incidence for us of around 3.8 percent for 2007, ( a figure which appals the EU Commission, we hear) the figures submitted by Defra are those for CNI only, and do not take into consideration the rump of herds under almost continuous restriction but still shooting their messengers.
Using those figures, (CNI) GB recorded 5.8 percent TB incidence in 2008.

That is half the correct figure, half a story and the result of two decades of half baked non-policy.


Lowlander said...

Just a clarification.
The Scottish justification to be eligible for OTF status, rests on the distinction between home grown confirmed TB cases and imported cases.
I am citing from memory but I believe that if you discount in Scotland cases with origin in Irish and English/Welsh imports the prevalence is 0.13%.
The whole chain of thought behins this idea is preciselly to make it harder and therefore restrict the influx of cattle from high risk areas. Avoiding in the process possibly allowing the disease to spill out of the cattle population and install itself in the wildlife in such a way that it would become self sustained eventually spilling back to cattle.

Matthew said...

While we appreciate what Scotland are trying to achieve, it is ultimately up to the EU and OIE to decide if there is a difference between home grown outbreaks and imported. As far as we are aware, the criteria do not differentiate.

We are also uneasy that Scotland wants to dispense with the cost of testing, and is using this as a method not to test cattle at all.
That may work with islands and with cross border trade with neighbours of similar status, but as so many cattle enter Scotland from Ireland and GB it seems a highly risky move.

Lowlander said...

You are right, ultimate interpretation is theirs. However, do bear in mind that there has been already surveying done of SG in Europe about this matter and the response has been positive.

As for you second paragraph I'm sorry but you are wholy mistaken. If anything, OTF will lead to actual MORE testing of cattle, not less. At the moment pre and post-movement testing is restricted to cattle coming from high prevalence parishes in England and Wales, with OTF, all cattle movements from England would require testing.
Movements from Ireland would retain the same level of testing they have at the moments but with stricter time frames.

It is seen as a longer term goal that, if OTF was obtained, and sufficient data gathered for a number of years (tipically 5 or 6) it would be possible to reduce the level of testing in line with all other OTF countries. But this would be a perfectly risk assessed move well in line with international practices.

And I see an adittional advantage with a possible OTF move for Scotland, as it would place extra focus on the epidemiological situation of England and Wales, and possibly apply extra political and economical pressure for DEFRA to take some actual measure to tackle the problem.

Lowlander said...

Actually your query did get me thinking a bit more about this isse and so I actually bothered to look into the OIE manual of recommendations:

Article 11.7.2. point 3:

"regular and periodic testing of all cattle, water buffalo, and wood bison herds did not detect M. bovis infection in at least 99.8% of the herds and 99.9% of the animals in the country or zone for 3 consecutive years;"

Regular and periodic testing are the 4 yearly routine tests done to the herds.
The data that you have of confirmed breakdowns includes as well cases disclosed in tests which are neither periodic or regular such as post import, pre or post movement from high risk areas and tracings.
If you count confirmed brekdowns arising from Routine Herd Tests only, Scotland does comply with OTF requirements.

Matthew said...

Thanks for that.
EU rules are as follows:
Council Directive 64/432/EEC, Annex A, paragraph 4, states:

“On the basis of information supplied in accordance with Article 8, a Member State, or part of a Member State may be declared officially tuberculosis-free, according to the procedure laid down in Article 17, if it meets the following conditions”:

* The percentage of bovine herds confirmed as infected with tuberculosis has not exceeded 0.1% per year of all herds for six consecutive years, and at least 99.9% of herds have achieved officially tuberculosis-free status each year for six consecutive years, the calculation of this latter percentage to take place on 31 December each calendar year.

* Each bovine animal is identified in accordance with Community legislation

* All bovine animals slaughtered are subject to an official post
-mortem examination in accordance with national and Community legislation

* The procedures for suspension and withdrawal of officially tuberculosis-free status have been complied with.

So this really rests with the EU's interpretation (and trust in Scottish veterinary investigations, spoligotyping etc.) in ascertaining whether a breakdown has been imported or is a result of indigenous infection.

We can understand that if the number of breakdowns which may be considered to be of "indigenous" origin, ie not the result of introduced infection from elsewhere, is sufficiently low to satisfy the conditions specified in the first point, then Scotland would press home a trading advantage. But ultimately, the EU rules do not differentiate.

Take your point re post movement testing. And we have always supported that. But as some outbreaks appear to be 'indigenous', and Scotland has a land border with the north of England, is it wise to contemplate leaving aside routine testing altogether?

Hadn't thought of its effect on Benn (or his successor) either. With Christianne Glossop's approach in Wales, and now Scotland's push for UDI, it leaves us in England a tad isolated. Could be useful.