Gamefarmers in England could be forced to pay a four pence levy for each of their birds under Government proposals to share the costs of future outbreaks of disease, such as bird flu and foot-and-mouth.

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn announced the proposals on 30 March as part of the long-awaited Responsibility and Cost Sharing consultation, which will run until 30 June. It currently costs DEFRA £44million every year to prevent animal disease and to prepare for outbreaks. The annual levy, which would raise approximately £22million, would be introduced in 2012, at the earliest, and cover the cost of disease surveillance. Critics of the plan have highlighted the fact that responsibility for the most recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth in 2007, as well as an outbreak in the 1950s, was traced to the Government’s own research laboratory at Pirbright, in Surrey.

In addition, DEFRA has proposed a mandatory insurance scheme to pay for
management of disease outbreaks. This would mean that insurance companies
would pay half the cost of any outbreak. The consultation also suggests a new
independent body that would take over animal health policy from DEFRA.

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said farmers should be more involved in preventing and paying for disease outbreaks. He said: “It’s right that livestock owners should be more involved in making decisions about how we prevent and handle those diseases and that they should contribute to the costs of collective action to tackle disease threats. This new way of tackling animal disease, which builds on how Government and the industry worked together to deal with bluetongue, will mean that everyone’s investment in disease control is more effectively and efficiently used. We should see a reduction in these diseases and their appropriate costs.”

The rest of this article appears in 9 April issue of Shooting Times.

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