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Battle to save a special veterinary laboratory; Vet's corner.

Byline: MARTIN PATERSON

SPENDING cuts seem to be the order of the day as Government attempts to grapple with the budget deficit.

It has recently been announced that the Veterinary Laboratories Agency centre in Thirsk is to fall under the axe.

Many members of the public may be unaware of the important role played by the VLA and the potentially dangerous result of the proposed changes.

The VLA is the Government-run agency which plays an essential role in disease surveillance alongside practising vets in the field.

The laboratory in Thirsk receives samples from a wide area across the north of England. Many VLA centres deal with a narrow spectrum of species but the centre at Thirsk receives samples from cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry.

The centre has the facility to perform post-mortem examinations and then process samples in its own lab.

The proposals for the future of the centre involve the closure of the laboratory facility so samples will need to be taken to labs in either Newcastle, Preston or Scotland.

This will inevitably lead to a slower response time which could have disastrous consequences.

In the relatively recent past, the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in cattle, sheep and pigs was a good example of a disease where speed of diagnosis was essential.

TB in cattle is a growing concern and Donaldson and Partners are heavily involved in TB testing of cattle throughout West Yorkshire.

Food safety is also an important remit for the VLA. They monitor and test for diseases like salmonella, e coli and campylobacter.

The VLA centre in Thirsk is one of the busiest and most well respected centres in the country and is well used regularly by vets and farmers in Kirklees.

So why, if Thirsk is such a well respected and busy centre, is there a proposal to scale down operations? I am on the committee of The Yorkshire Veterinary Society and we have been asking that question of Government and have yet to get a clear reply but there are concerns that the site in Thirsk is prime development land right next to the local Tesco and that the prospect of realising some money from the sale of the land might be being considered above considerations of the gulf which will be left after the cuts.

CAPTION(S):

* CRITICAL WAIT: The closure of Defra's veterinary lab centre in Thirsk could lead to slower diagnosis of animal diseases in Kirklees
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 21, 2011
Words:407
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