Animal health concerns backed by MPs

The Farmers’ Union of Wales today welcomed MPs support in its bid to halt the closure of two animal health laboratories in Wales and transfer the work to laboratories in England.

"We are pleased that many of the concerns raised by the union in our evidence to the Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry have been taken on board," said the FUW’s hill farming and marginal land committee chairman Derek Morgan.

"We welcome the decision of the MPs on the committee to challenge the redistribution of Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) laboratory testing facilities."

Currently AHVLA laboratory services are delivered by 16 centres across the UK but the agency proposes to decommission laboratory testing services in the Aberystwyth and Carmarthen centres and redistribute the work to other AHVLA centres in England.

"The proposals would see this work being delivered by just eight sites with no laboratory testing services in Wales," Mr Morgan told the Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry.

"Under the proposals, laboratory work currently undertaken in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen would be redistributed to Bury St Edmunds, Lasswade, Newcastle, Penrith, Shrewsbury, Starcross, Sutton Bonington and Weybridge.

"Whilst these changes do not affect the location of post-mortem facilities, veterinary investigation officer activities or the veterinary surveillance programme, the FUW is concerned that the downgrading of laboratory services in Wales will result in a two-tier service.

"Furthermore, the union believes that the loss of laboratory services in Wales will result in a loss of expertise and will increase the vulnerability of such laboratories to any future closures."

The Welsh Affairs Committee has now written to Defra agriculture and food minister James Paice MP expressing concerns about the impact of the proposed closure of some veterinary laboratory facilities in Wales.

The committee has also asked for reassurances that the decommissioning of laboratory testing in Wales will not affect issues such as sample transport and viability, time to diagnosis, farmer-vet relationships, the identification of new and emerging diseases, the level of expertise available and the future of post-mortem testing.