It’s all got rather Kafka-esque as I try to resolve the ongoing Drosophila importation crisis! It transpires that the people who have decided that importation of Drosophila should be covered by legislation aimed quite properly at preventing the import of diseased farm animals are a subsidiary of Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) called Animal Health.
Now clearly these people have a vitally important job, particularly in light of recent outbreaks of bluetongue, foot and mouth and the potential threat of avian influenza (to which we can add the problems currently afflicting honey bees). But nowhere on their website do I see indication of why they feel they need to hold up my harmless flies, which are not an agricultural pest, transmit no disease, are not harmful, and in any case would be unable to survive outdoors anyway. To add to that list of characteristics, these are weak strains carrying recessive lethal mutations. This is how they describe themselves and their responsibilities:
Animal Health is the government’s executive agency primarily responsible for ensuring that farmed animals in England, Scotland and Wales are healthy, disease-free and well looked after.
We also have responsibility for managing outbreaks of notifiable animal diseases, and in this way we support the farming industry, helping it compete successfully worldwide, protect the welfare of farmed animals and safeguard public health from animal bourn disease.
The agency become Animal Health on 1st April 2007 following the merger of the State Veterinary Service (SVS), Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate and Egg Marketing Inspectorate and the Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service.
We are sponsored by, and work on behalf of, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government across Great Britain implementing the animal health and welfare policies primarily on farms, at livestock markets and during transport.
We also work for the Food Standards Agency to protect public health by ensuring that dairy hygiene and egg production standards are met.
We also regulate the trade in endangered species.
None of this seems to put the importation of research invertebrates under their control.
I spent an hour or so on the phone to them this morning, but I’ve been unable to make them budge. I’m not quite sure what to do. Perhaps we need to make a trip to the USA so we can bring them back as pets (and therefore exempt under the European Directive I was quoted).
I am beginning to feel like a character in a Franz Kafka novel, so I’ve tagged this blog article "humour". If I didn’t laugh, I would cry.