News Release

News Release ref : 28/03

Date: 23 January 2003 





Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty  today (Thur) announced major changes to the Spring animal movements regime for England and Wales.


The changes, which will come into effect on March 4,  include a reduction of the 20-day whole farm standstill to six days (except for pigs) but with far fewer movement exemptions and are subject to a firm commitment from the livestock industry to a package of measures to improve the level of biosecurity and disease surveillance.


The new arrangements also include a readiness to increase the length of the standstill back to 20 days if the threat of disease increases, as recommended in the Royal Society report.


The announcement follows the emerging findings results from risk assessments commissioned by Defra in the light of recommendations made in July 2002 by the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries.


The Order setting out the move to a six day standstill will have an expiry date of July 31, 2003 so that the position can be reviewed at the end of May, when the final results of this work will be announced.


The two assessments were:


  • A risk assessment of the impact of different standstills on the “Silent Spread” of the disease before it is known to be in the country
  • A cost benefit analysis of the cost to the industry and disease control benefit to GB as a whole of different standstills


Defra had already commissioned a risk assessment of the probability of disease reaching GB livestock either from illegal meat imports or from the legal meat trade. Emerging results from this study were also assessed as part of the decision.


Lord  Whitty said the risk assessment and cost benefit studies had tackled novel and complex problems in a relatively short timescale.


“While the emerging findings did not provide unequivocal answers, the Government has concluded that the best approach is to put in place a standstill of six days provided that the industry demonstrated a commitment to an effective programme of biosecurity controls and further work to improve disease detection.


“The Government considers in the light of the evidence that a standstill period provides a valuable long-term element in the movement regime for cattle and sheep. The emerging results from the cost benefit analysis do not provide a definitive conclusion on the optimum length of the standstill but in most of the scenarios and on balance a six day standstill appears appropriate.


“The results also strongly indicate that it is vital to address factors such as disease surveillance, biosecurity standards on farms, in markets and in the transport of livestock. Above all it is vital to raise awareness and commitment in the livestock community to reporting suspicion of disease.


“We will not hesitate to move back to a 20 day standstill system if the risk of disease increases or if farmers are found to be flouting the six day movement system,” he warned.


Individual farmers found to be breaking the law will have their right to move animals under a general licence removed.


Among the measures being introduced to improve disease detection and biosecurity are:


  • A responsibility on lorry drivers, farmers and others to ensure that vehicles are clean when entering markets


  • A requirement that auction market operators will be required to sign a formal undertaking to comply with strict operating procedures


  • A separation period in both time and space between dedicated slaughter markets and other livestock markets.


The Government is also to consult on the following proposals for introduction later in the year:

  • Revised FMD biosecurity guidance by July 1, 2003 as required under the Animal Health Act 2002
  • A ban on animals being kept on market premises overnight


  • A requirement for all livestock vehicles to be cleansed and disinfected before leaving markets and abattoirs


  • A requirement for market operators to ensure that a vet attends every market


  • A requirement for farmers to consult a vet at least annually for advice about disease detection, biosecurity and farm health plans.


And the Government is to commission further work into the impact of dealers on the pattern of livestock movements and the possibility of imposing a distance limit of 150km on the movement of animals through markets.


In addition, the Government will work with the farming and veterinary sectors on a package of education and best practice guidance covering the recognition and reporting of disease, the encouragement of farm health plans covering disease surveillance and biosecurity and movement records.



Notes to Editors



1          The 20-day standstill was imposed on all livestock in the aftermath of the 2001 FMD outbreak on the basis of veterinary advice that it improved the chances of detecting disease within a flock or herd before animals moved because 20 days allows for two to three incubation periods and slowed down the rate of animal movements, so slowing the spread of any undetected disease. Prior to 2001, the 20-day rule applied only to pigs.


2          There have been successive relaxations in England and Wales and separately in Scotland, notably a system of isolation for incoming animals, in order to meet industry concerns over the costs imposed by the standstill.


3          The two independent inquiries into FMD – the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries – endorsed the retention of the 20-day standstill on disease control grounds until the Government had carried out detailed risk assessment and wide-ranging cost-benefit analysis of the impact of different standstill periods.


4          The Government is publishing today a summary document describing the emerging findings from the risk assessments and cost benefit analysis. Fuller reports from the external contractors will be published shortly when quality assurance is complete.


5          The PN can be found on Defra’s website at  The summary can be found at


6          Scottish Ministers will be making a simultaneous announcement about the regime in Scotland.





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