EPIC efforts to tackle animal disease
Improving Scotland's contingency planning for future foot and mouth disease outbreaks will be one of the first tasks for a new animal disease outbreak centre.
Speaking at a Winter Beef Management Event in Fife, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said the EPIC Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks would focus on ensuring Scotland was as well prepared as possible to respond to future disease outbreaks.
The Cabinet Secretary said the EPIC centre - a collaboration of Scottish research institutes and universities led by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) - was now up and running with an experienced team in place.
Mr Lochhead said:
"Bringing together Scotland's world-leading scientists on livestock disease control, the EPIC Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks will provide the Scottish Government with access to the best advice on the epidemiology and control of a range of animal diseases. The initial focus is on improving contingency planning for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
"EPIC will address a range of issues - including analysis of potential disease control options, and examining how international developments might affect Scotland's livestock disease risks - with the ultimate aim of minimising the impact of any outbreak."
George Gunn, Director of EPIC and SAC's Head of Veterinary Epidemiology, said:
"It's a rapidly changing world and we are increasingly confronted by the threat of new diseases reaching our country and fresh outbreaks of diseases which were previously believed under control in Scotland. The EPIC centre is at the frontline of our defences and will assist the Scottish Government and all those involved with the livestock farming industry to minimise the risks as well as react quickly and effectively should outbreaks occur."
Mr Lochhead also took the opportunity to remind farmers about the steps they should take to be ready for winter, in case Scotland faces a repeat of last year's severe weather.
"Scotland's weather is nothing if not unpredictable and that means we need to be alert to the possibility of a cold snap just around the corner. At this time of the year it makes sense to plan for winter and - like all businesses - farmers should be as prepared as they can be.
"Many farmers regularly cope well with the disruption caused by heavy snow or low temperatures. Unfortunately some farm businesses routinely struggle to cope with the onset of difficult conditions.
"That's why, this year, the Scottish Government has produced a series of pointers that should help farmers identify their specific risks and prepare better and these are available on the Ready Scotland website."
The organisations involved in the EPIC Centre of Expertise are the Scottish Agricultural College, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Research Consortium, Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, The James Hutton Institute, University of Glasgow and the Moredun Research Institute. It is led by Prof. George Gunn from the Scottish Agricultural College.