Ministers agree on all-island animal health and welfare strategy

THE agriculture ministers from the south and the North have agreed an All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy.

Brendan Smith and Michelle Gildernew formally agreed the strategy at the North South Ministerial Council sectoral meeting on agriculture and rural development at Hillsborough.

Key industry stake-holders from across the island will discuss the strategy at a conference in the Slieve Russell, Hotel, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, on April 12.

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli has accepted an invitation to address the conference, a cross-border event hosted jointly by ministers Smith and Gildernew.

Announcing the strategy agreement, Ms Gildernew said her commitment to it has been one of her key ministerial priorities since she came into office almost three years ago.

“All the hard work and determination to secure the strategy’s agreement has now paid off and the agreement is a significant step forward,” she said.

“It is recognised throughout this island that there are enormous benefits in an all-island approach to animal health and welfare.

“North-South co-operation on animal health and welfare issues has the potential to help reduce and prevent the spread of animal disease as well as facilitate trade and improve the sustainability of farming.

“The free movement of animals on the island is a key priority and the All-Island Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is certainly the right vehicle to take this forward.”

Ms Gildernew said key stakeholders from both jurisdictions will be brought together for the first time at the conference to discuss the delivery of the strategy.

“This will be a milestone event for the strategy and I am very eager to hear as many viewpoints as possible on how we can implement the plans,” she said.

Ms Gildernew said there have already been a number of positive outcomes as a result of north-south co-operation on animal health and welfare.

These ranged from exchange of data to facilitate trade in bovine animals, alignment of border control policies aimed at preventing animal disease spread and contingency planning for disease outbreaks including foot and mouth, avian flu and blue-tongue.

“I believe that co-operation of this nature will help international recognition of the quality of our products and will be good for marketing right across our industry.

“I am committed to ensuring this close level of co-operation continues,” she said.

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