A row has broken out in Australia over FMD restrictions, which may prevent European horses from running in the Melbourne Cup in November.

The Australian government has lifted the ban on the importation of horses from the United Kingdom, but horses still have to spend three weeks in pre-export quarantine in a government-approved facility in an FMD-free country.

In addition, vets from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) have to supervise the horses from four weeks before they depart for Australia, as well as during the two weeks’ quarantine on arrival.

Paul O’Callaghan, president of the Australian Horse Industry Council, said: “The conditions imposed by AQIS are an insult to science. They are totally unsuitable for competition horses and prohibitively expensive for smaller owners.

“Additional costs and disruption to training programmes will foil the annual assault by English horses on the Melbourne Cup.”

Dr Ian Denney, president of the Australian Veterinary Association, said: “It now seems the federal government is engaged in yet another political stunt.”