Planned closure of Inverness lab shows failure to learn foot & mouth lessons

Planned closure of Inverness laboratory shows failure to learn lessons from foot and mouth outbreak

Lessons have not been learned from past outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, Prospect has warned, after plans were announced to close a world-class veterinary laboratory in Inverness that carries out post mortem examinations on livestock.

The union says that Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), which owns and runs the site, has made no provision for relocating the laboratory, which means that farmers in the Highlands will have to transport carcases hundreds of miles to the next nearest labs in Perth, Thurso or Aberdeen.

“The reason for examining these animals is to establish the cause of death – specifically whether it is the result of a contagious disease,” said Alan Denney, Prospect national secretary.

“If dead animals have to be transported over much greater distances this will increase the chances of spreading infection. Because of the extra time and effort involved, it may also mean that some animals will not get tested and we potentially miss an important early warning sign of an outbreak.”

Denney added: “This has implications for both animal and human health. If we get another major outbreak of foot and mouth the livelihoods of countless farmers could be threatened and the costs could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds. Unfortunately these closure plans suggest that past lessons have not been learned.

“We’re also potentially talking about the spread of infections like bird flu and e-coli, which could have grave implications for human health.”

“Set against these threats a projected saving of £150,000 a year from closing Inverness seems meagre at best.”

The Inverness laboratory could close as soon as this autumn under the cost-cutting plans announced by the SRUC, which would also see service changes at another lab in Ayr. Some 30 jobs across the two sites are threatened by the plans, says Prospect.

The union has also criticised the consultation – which is set to run until July 10 – as well as levels of scrutiny.

“The consultation does not involve or address the concerns of the public. Furthermore, we’ve had an MSP turned away when making a planned, fact-finding visit to Inverness," said Denney. "This is completely unacceptable – public money was used to build the lab and it is partly run on behalf of the Scottish government.”

For further information contact:
Andrew Child
020 7902 6681 (w)
07803 008697 (m)
[email protected]