The European Court of Justice (EJC) has ruled that the EU’s policy to ban vaccination against foot and mouth disease is perfectly legal, even for animals in areas where the disease has not occurred.

Ruling on a case brought by the national court in the Netherlands, the ECJ said the cost and disadvantages of preventive vaccination of all animals in the EU “would greatly outweigh those of a non-vaccination policy”.

Vaccination would also adversely affect exports of animals from the EU, it said, and added that it had “not been established that the introduction of a vaccination policy would have reduced the need to have recourse to sanitary slaughter”.

By Alan Osborn, correspondent