Laboratory closures effecting disease data, AM warns

PLAID Cymru’s shadow rural affairs minister Llyr Gruffydd has warned that Defra budget cuts are exposing Welsh farming to a greater risk of disease outbreaks. A British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey has revealed that, following the closure of several laboratories in the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) surveillance network, as many as nine in 10 production animal vets in England and Wales now conduct their own post-mortems but less than five per cent submit the data to national databases. Mr Gruffydd expressed concern that the retention of post-mortem information in private offices will undermine Wales’s ability to respond effectively to disease outbreaks, and called for measures to ensure such data is shared across England and Wales. He said: “Defra has faced one of the biggest reductions of all government departments in recent years, with a further 15 per cent cut to its budget announced in November. “The implications for agricultural services in Wales are great as Defra, through public bodies such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency, plays a key role in our ability to respond to animal disease outbreaks – especially disease surveillance. “Fewer services from Defra will mean that Welsh agriculture and our environment is exposed to greater risks, putting even greater pressure on alreadystretched Welsh Government services. “The figures released by the BVA reveal that these cuts are already having an impact on access to postmortem services, forcing more private vets to conduct their own post-mortems. “In addition, 63 per cent of vets affected by APHA laboratory closures reported that carcass collection in local areas was not working well. “These budget cuts, by causing more post-mortem information to be retained in private offices rather than national databases, endanger the UK’s capacity to effectively respond to disease outbreaks. “I echo the call made by the BVA for innovative and cost efficient measures for the capture and analysis of PM data, so that Wales continues to be able to respond effectively to disease outbreaks, despite UK cuts.”

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