A standstill will reduce the spread and costs of foot-and-mouth disease
Detection of foot-and-mouth disease is likely to result in immediate closure of export markets for Australia’s livestock and livestock products.
Minimising the spread of the disease through a standstill will reduce the devastating economic and social consequences of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak to livestock producers, livestock and regional industries and Australia's economy.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious virus that spreads between animals by:
- movement of infected animals
- direct contact with an infected animal
- air-borne particles from infected animals
- movement of contaminated animal products (such as wool or manure), vehicles, equipment and people.
Ceasing all movement of livestock with cloven hooves will significantly reduce the spread of foot-and-mouth disease around the country and reduce the costs and time spent eradicating the disease.
A review of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001 estimated that the epidemic could have been reduced by 30-50% had a national movement ban been imposed three days earlier.
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Declaring a standstill
Nationally, government and industry will make the decision to initiate a standstill. In Western Australia, the decision will be approved by the Chief Veterinary Officer of WA and communicated officially through the Government Gazette under the Exotic Diseases of Animals Act 1993.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) will inform key industry groups, who will share the responsibility to communicate the information to all relevant people by the fastest and most effective means.
Industry and government preparation will ensure the success of a standstill.
While governments can implement a standstill, to maximise its effectiveness, industry will need to have pre-prepared procedures in place on how to communicate and respond to the standstill.
In particular, saleyards, abattoirs, stock agents and show managers will require plans that address how they will manage the health and welfare of stock (food, water, shelter) and ensure biosecurity measures are appropriate during a standstill.
Livestock in transit at the time the standstill is declared
Livestock in transit when a standstill is initiated may continue their journey, provided that:
- the journey began and will end within WA, can be completed within four hours of the declaration of the standstill, and the movement is:
- from farm to farm
- farm to feedlot
- to an abattoir
- returning to where they came from.
Transporters carrying livestock that do not meet the above criteria must stop and contact DAFWA for further direction and to receive an emergency permit.
Enforcement of the standstill
It is illegal to move any cloven-hooved livestock that do not meet the criteria above while the standstill is in place unless you obtain an emergency permit from DAFWA. WA Police will monitor the movement of livestock on WA roads and have the power to stop vehicles transporting livestock.
Under the Exotic Diseases of Animals Act 1993, DAFWA officers also have the power to stop vehicles suspected to be carrying livestock.
Failure to comply with the standstill may result in a fine of $5000 or imprisonment of 12 months, or both.
Animal welfare during a standstill
The person(s) in charge of livestock when a standstill is called is responsible for maintaining their health and welfare during the standstill. For example, it will be the responsibility of the saleyard operators to maintain the health and welfare of stock in saleyards during a standstill.
Owners who have livestock in transit must accept these animals back onto their property if directed by WA Police or a DAFWA inspector. These animals should be separated from other animals on the property for at least one week.
Milk tankers will continue to operate as normal during a livestock standstill unless the dairy farm is on or near an infected property. Feed may still be delivered to properties but owners should maintain good biosecurity practices and prevent non-essential vehicles and visitors from entering areas of the property that hold livestock.
Lifting the standstill
The standstill may be extended after the initial 72 hours depending on risk assessments carried out in each jurisdiction. The lifting of the standstill may occur at different times around Australia depending on the disease situation.
If the disease were present in WA, additional movement restrictions would be imposed surrounding the areas of infection.
Government and industry will advise livestock owners once the standstill has been lifted.