As part of the UK’s initiative to reduce its budget deficit, the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that its Animal Health Agency and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency will be merged.

Both bodies are active in the areas of disease prevention and control, and are also involved in adherence to standards.

Additionally, the Commission for Rural Communities, responsible for promoting awareness of the social and economic needs of people who live in rural areas, will be abolished.

Environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, commented: “With an urgent need to drive down debt and reduce government spending, we will have to make some tough decisions. Our belief is that policy should be driven from the centre, and that our arm's length bodies will be efficient and effective in meeting customer needs.”


UK farming body NFU has said that the merger was a sensible move, but warned that any further reorganizations must not impact on UK agriculture’s ability to remain competitive in Europe.

Peter Kendall, NFU president, said: “Today’s announcements are sensible streamlining from Defra, which is tasked with saving almost a third of its budget. That said, I am mindful that, for some, today’s news will mean job losses.”

Like any other country, the UK has not been immune to disease outbreaks, with incursions restricting both pig and poultry exports over the last decade. It had been due to establish an independent animal health body, planned to come into operation in 2012. However, following a change in government, these plans were put on hold.