The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, or AHVLA, has announced that seven of the 14 sites in England and Wales, used to detect new and re-emerging animal diseases and threats, are to close.

It says that this move is part of a new system to "improve disease surveillance across the region by making better use of the expertise and resources of private vets, universities and the livestock industry."

This will also mean that as many as 30 people will lose their jobs.

However, the AHVLA’s director of veterinary surveillance, Rupert Hine, defended the move.

But many organisations have criticised the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ plans to down-size its network of laboratories and reduce the number of animal post-mortems.

The Royal College of Pathologists say that this will put the health of livestock at risk, and may mean that infections, some of which could be transmitted to humans, may go undetected.

In a statement, the British Veterinary Association said the proposals “raise many questions” and warned any spending cuts could be far outweighed by the cost of a disease outbreak.

But George Eustice, the Farming Minister, defended the changes, saying that responsibility for detecting diseases needed to be "shared by the farming industry and government."

Ben Briggs, the news and business editor at the Farmer’s Guardian newspaper, says that the government should be trusted…

Under the plans, which will see the testing service’s budget cut by £3 million, testing for diseases such as foot-and-mouth, Schmallenberg and avian flu will be outsourced to private vets.

Archie Prentice, is the President of the Royal College of Pathologists.

He says that this would increase the risk of diseases going under the radar

In September, an 18 year ban on the import of British beef and lamb to Russia was lifted.

And some commentators fear that the move to close these centres could raise questions over the quality of British meat.

Ben Briggs suggests that these plans shouldn’t affect the status of British meat.

Even so – the news that Britain’s animal pathology resources have been so drastically cut – could send a worrying signal.