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Defra Cuts Could Hurt UK's Animal Disease Preparedness

09 November 2015

UK - The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is one of four government departments, which has provisionally agreed to cut its spending by an average of 30 per cent over the next four years.

It’s understood the departments will be expected to cut day-to-day spending over the next four years through a combination of efficiency savings and closing low value programmes.

The cuts caused concern at the British Veterinary Association.

BVA President Sean Wensley said: "In recent years we have already seen the impact of significant cuts to Defra's budget on veterinary fees for TB testing and other OV services and on disease surveillance.

"Our major concern is that more cuts in these areas could further erode the UK's preparedness for a disease outbreak, which could have massive implications for animal and human health, animal welfare and the reputation of UK agriculture.

"The Defra Secretary of State has repeatedly said that animal health and welfare is a priority so we would urge Defra to protect animal health and welfare budgets relative to other areas of spend and ensure that short-term savings do not lead to serious adverse consequences in the longer term."

NFU President Meurig Raymond commented: “Our priority is for farming businesses to be productive and profitable and we are concerned that cuts of up to 30 per cent could damage front line delivery services that underpin this aim. That is why we believe that Defra should first seek savings in ‘back office’ functions rather than reducing spending on areas that are key to our members, such as animal health, flood protection and a fully functioning Rural Payments system.

“The NFU also have concerns about cost recovery - if this simply means paying for the continuation of services that could be delivered more effectively and efficiently. We believe that there is scope for some services, including some provided by agencies such as the Environment Agency, to be delivered more cost-effectively by other providers.

“We will now be looking to meet with Ministers and officials as soon as possible to understand how this announcement will impact farmers and growers.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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