Animal health debate turns into media briefing row

Dr Rashid bin Fahad said recent camel deaths have been isolated incidents and could not be considered an epidemic.

Dr Rashid bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, said a member’s use of the word ‘epidemic’ to describe a disease affecting camel stocks was not necessary. Jaime Puebla / The National
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ABU DHABI // A debate about an illness that has killed champion racing camels led to FNC colleagues having sharp words about members briefing the press on the matter.

Mosabeh Al Kitbi (Sharjah) presented the council with video from owners whose animals died of an unknown illness.

Mr Al Kitbi said the ailment was wiping out people’s livestock and their wealth.

He asked why the Ministry of Environment and Water had not explained the condition or intervened to treat it.

The Minister of Environment, Dr Rashid bin Fahad, said the camel deaths were isolated and could not be considered an epidemic.

In a recent written response to the FNC, he said a number of factors could have led to the death of the camels, including contaminated fodder.

The minister called out Mr Al Kitbi for issuing statements to the press saying camels were suffering a disease epidemic.

Dr bin Fahad said that any such declaration needed to be backed with evidence and could have wide repercussions for food security.

“If we say there is a sickness spreading an epidemic, it could create complications for the UAE internationally. We may be asked why we are not being transparent,” he said.

Dr bin Fahad said the UAE exported food to many markets, an achievement that “didn’t come easily”.

Such statements could come to harm the UAE, he said. “We have put a lot of effort in monitoring food commodities,” Dr bin Fahad said. “To announce any problems, I think the member needs to be sure.

“The ministry was not told of any unnatural or abnormal disease. We would be embarrassed in front of the world in the case that this is true, and to the people of the UAE.”

Mr Al Kitbi said he would be forced to take the matter farther and reveal more if action were not taken.

He defended the media’s right to investigate and tood by his statements on the matter.

“We did not interfere with the media,” Dr bin Fahad said.

The minister concluded by asking Mr Al Kitbi to provide him with the names of camel breeders whose stock was affected by disease.