Testing for bovine TB will continue on Northern Ireland farms, DAERA chief vet Robert Huey has said.

“It is my intention to keep the TB testing programme going,” Huey told MLAs on Stormont’s agriculture committee on Thursday.

“We know from 2001 and the Foot and Mouth crisis that if you stop TB testing, the results can be devastating. There was a doubling or tripling of TB on farms at that stage,” Huey said.

He acknowledged that this requires farmers allowing private vets on to their premises amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acceptable risk

“We have to keep looking at that risk. At the moment, I think it is acceptable,” Huey maintained.

“It is also important for the exports to maintain our health status through our TB programme,” he added.

The chief vet said that his top priority was to keep food moving through the supply chain.

He highlighted the importance of keeping DAERA vets in abattoirs for meat inspection, so that lines can continue to operate.

Certification of animal-based products is also a key priority for the department’s veterinary service.

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