Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann has said that there needs to be a concerted push “to help stamp out the scourge of TB from Northern Ireland agriculture once and for all”.
Assemblyman Swann, a past president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, made his call after he hosted the British Veterinary Association at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, recently.
Speaking to assembled guests and delegates, Mr Swann said how he “acknowledged the vital role that vets play in ensuring high standards of animal health and welfare, and biosecurity and surveillance throughout Northern Ireland, their contribution to a thriving export market for Northern Ireland as well as to Northern Ireland’s excellence in research and development”.
“Much progress has been made in Northern Ireland over recent years – including the granting of officially brucellosis free status,” he said. “That was an achievement which shouldn’t for one moment be underestimated, and it was due in no small part to the consistent efforts and monitoring of vets.
“Yet while progress has been made in some others areas such as BVD, in others the progress has been at a slower pace. TB continues to blight parts of Northern Ireland, and only recently has there been broad consensus that the reservoir of the diseases in wildlife needs tackled if we are ever to get to grips with it.
“The TVR has been progressing smoothly through its pilot, but the real challenge will only be realised when it’s rolled out on a wider basis - and when there is someone in place to make that decision.
“Animal diseases and illnesses don’t recognise international borders, so whatever the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU, it is important Northern Ireland continues to work pragmatically with the Republic – this includes carrying on with the all-island approach to disease management.
Afterwards Mr Swann acknowledged the work of BVA
He said: “With non-farmed animals as they do farmed. Despite Northern Ireland being a province of animal lovers there are far too many incidents of appalling crimes happening locally with animals being neglected and abused.
“Unfortunately, there is an ongoing perception that perpetrators of these types of crime get away lightly when it comes to punishments from the courts. Over the period 2011 to 2015, only two of the 201 cases of animal cruelty had the maximum penalty imposed.
“We now have the toughest penalties for animal cruelty of anywhere in the UK or Ireland, including a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, but these are pointless unless they are applied to act as the strongest possible deterrent to others.
“That is why the UUP has identified animal welfare as an important policy area moving forward and produced our own policy document on it.
“We support a new register of people convicted of animal cruelty, pre-stunning of all livestock, the introduction of CCTV in abattoirs, tightening down of the abuses in greyhound racing, the revamping of the horse passport system, clamping down on the online sale of pets, and much more,” urged Assemblyman Swann.