AN animal health products co-operative has accused the European Union of dealing a further blow to the North-East's rural economy by proposing a prescription-only monopoly in animal medicines.

Farmer-owned Farmway, which is based in Darlington and has branches throughout the region and southern Scotland, hit out at proposed EU legislation to reclassify all medicines for farm livestock and horses as prescription only medicines.

Retail business manager Judith Wox said the legislation was a threat to jobs because it would rob suppliers of a significant part of their turnover.

She said: "Inevitably, many of the 3,500 people who currently hold a recognised professional qualification allowing them to authorise the sale of animal medicines from registered premises could end up losing their jobs.

"This proposed legislation is totally unnecessary and represents yet another serious blow to the already hard-pressed rural economy here in the UK. We would urge our local MP and MEP to do all they can to ensure that this proposal is modified before it is too late."