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Responsibility and cost sharing

Animal disease outbreaks (like foot and mouth disease (FMD), avian influenza, or bluetongue) and endemic diseases (eg bovine TB, Salmonella) can be costly to industry and government as well as a threat to public health in some cases. There is a need to manage the overall risk and costs of diseases to industry, government and the wider economy; and make sure investment in disease prevention and management is effective and delivers value for money.

The case for government action

Defra currently spends £330 million annually on animal health and has to meet the additional costs of any disease outbreaks in England, Scotland and Wales. The main arguments for sharing responsibility for dealing with animal disease with animal keepers are:

  • Effective engagement of all those responsible for managing animal disease risks will improve policies and allow for greater ownership by all those involved in their implementation.
  • The need to reduce annual public expenditure while managing the risk of disease (and to meet the costs of outbreaks when they occur).
  • The prospect of new EU policy in coming years (other countries already have cost sharing arrangements).

The current situation

The Responsibility and Cost Sharing Advisory Group published the findings of their work on 13 December 2010. Their main recommendation for enhancing responsibility sharing is the creation of an English Partnership Board. The strategic aim of the Partnership Board would be to reduce the risk and cost of animal disease and improve the welfare of kept animals; but also to rebuild and maintain trust between animal keepers and Defra, and to improve the effectiveness and value for money of policy and delivery.

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice welcomed the report, as a valuable base to help explore the options for responsibility and cost sharing in the future. He said that it provides an excellent opportunity to examine how the Big Society can be put into action in this important area of Defra policy.

Ministers will announce their response to this in early 2011. Further information is available by contacting:

The Coalition Programme for Government included a commitment to investigate ways to share responsibility for preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of disease with livestock keepers. It is important for industry, as well as government, to own the animal disease control policies and collectively take responsibility for shared decisions and the consequences for those policies. At present there are a variety of advisory committees and partnership arrangements to involve those affected by policies (eg for a particular disease). But overall policy (and its funding) is determined and final decisions are taken by Defra Ministers.


  • The previous government published a draft Bill in January 2010, proposing responsibility sharing measures which included the establishment of an independent body for animal health policy. The new government does not intend to proceed with this Bill.  
  • Defra officials are investigating the most effective measures to mitigate and control disease incursion and spread.
  • The RCS Advisory Group was established in September 2009 with Rosemary Radcliffe as its independent Chair, and with significant external representation, to advise government on how best to make responsibility sharing real and help scrutinise the way Defra’s funds for animal health are currently deployed.  A report was published of their findings in December 2010.
  • The European Commission is expected to bring forward proposals for responsibility and cost sharing in 2012. A feasibility study is currently underway to determine how a harmonised approach might work.

Facts and figures

  • Defra’s annual spending on animal health and welfare (including spend by agencies and Non-departmental Public Bodies) was around £330 million for 2009-10. The additional costs of any disease outbreaks have to be found from within the Defra budget – there is no contingency for outbreaks.
  • Individual animal disease outbreaks can be very costly, for example, the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 cost the UK £8 billion. This included costs for the government of £3 billion, including £1.2 billion in compensation to farmers.
  • Endemic diseases are also costly, in particular Bovine TB costs Defra around £80 million per year and rising. Postweaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS), has an estimated cost to the British Pig Industry of £30 million per year.
  • When notifiable diseases occur, the EU imposes export bans with serious consequences for the competitiveness of the livestock industry. This is in addition to the costs of dealing with the diseases.
  • A recent assessment of the risk of exotic disease outbreaks (taking account of the current risk reduction measures) concluded the long-run average annual cost of dealing with outbreaks is around £50 million for government and £100 million to industry. This is an average and includes years where there will be no outbreaks/costs and years with much higher costs from outbreaks – there is therefore a wide range of uncertainty around this estimate.

If you have any queries about responsibility and cost sharing, or feedback on the information on this page, please email:

Page last modified: 11 February 2011

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