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Vets chief worried at end to animal testing at local centre
4:07pm Friday 30th September 2011 in Farming
A DECISION to cut key services at a laboratory which defends against diseases such as foot-and-mouth and E.coli could affect public health, according to a leading vet.
Paul Roger, president of Yorkshire Veterinary Society, said moving the testing of farm animals from the Government- run centre in Thirsk would make it more difficult for scientists to identify fragile organisms due to transportation issues.
He said closing the service would cause delays in diseases such as E.coli and salmonella being identified, increasing the chance of diseases spreading and sparking public health implications.
The laboratory provided diagnoses on animals ranging from turkeys to goats to farmers from Yorkshire, parts of Cleveland and County Durham.
Its work will be transferred to centres including Newcastle and Penrith, as part of a Government move to strip laboratory facilities from eight of the UK’s 16 regional centres run by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
Mr Roger said: “It is very important that we have rapid diagnostics available to us. The Thirsk laboratory plays an instrumental role in identifying various diseases and is responsible for 40 per cent of the breeding pigs in the UK.”
A spokesman for the agency said 15 staff are employed in laboratory services at the Station Road centre, but postmortem, veterinary investigations and surveillance workers would remain.
He said: “This will improve cost effectiveness and efficiency, enabling the agency to continue to deliver important scientific services to Government and the livestock industry within a reduced spending review settlement.”
But Geraldine O’Connell, national secretary for Prospect, a union which represents scientists, said the closure would mean a poorer service to vets and the livestock industry.
Adam Bedford, National Farmers Union policy advisor for the North East, said his members were worried about the laboratory’s closure, as the service could become diluted with the nearest testing site at Longbenton, in Newcastle.
He said: “Everybody has a stark memory of what happened in 2001 and there was a scare again in 2007. We might now be open to a greater disease risk at a time when the Government is asking farmers to take more responsibility for disease management.”