Controls Will Help Solve Dire TB Problem

UK - The introduction of a badger control policy to help stamp out bovine tuberculosis (TB) would be the right decision for ministers to make, according to the National Farmers' Union (NFU), which has called the policy ‘fundamental’ to reducing the needless slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle each year.
calendar icon 11 July 2011
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National Farmers Union

Before the summer recess (July 19), Defra is expected to announce the results of a government consultation on the introduction of a carefully-managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis.

The NFU believes that the existing tight cattle controls, which see herds with TB tested every 60 days and cows slaughtered when they test positive for the disease, must be mirrored by controls aimed at reducing the level of TB in badgers.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “Science has shown us that a policy including badger controls is fundamental if we are to reduce TB in cattle. It is not a position anyone, including the NFU, has arrived at lightly. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made. In this case it is absolutely clear that we need to start to tackle the level of TB in badgers.

“Elsewhere in the world difficult decisions have been taken to control wildlife where they have been implicated in the spread of TB and those difficult decisions have resulted in significant reductions in the level of disease in cattle, in countries like New Zealand and Ireland, for example.

“Bovine TB is one of the greatest threats currently facing British beef and dairy farmers. Like any unmanaged situation it is now spiralling out of control. For example, in 1998 in England and Wales almost 6,000 cattle were slaughtered to control the disease. In 2010 that number had jumped to over 32,000 – over five times as many animals going to slaughter.”

Mr Kendall said that industry was ready to play its part in tackling the disease.

“If given the go ahead any badger control policy will be implemented by fully trained and qualified professionals,” he added.

“People must move away from the idea that a green light will mean farmers having a free-for-all. That is simply not the case.

“This has never been about eradicating badgers. This is about disease control. The science has demonstrated in its most recent reports that culling badgers will help reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle and the costs have been brought under control by industry looking at best practice and controlled humane shooting.

“Most right-minded people want a solution to the devastating impact bovine TB has; on our farming families, on the stress caused to cattle forced into testing regimes every 60 days and for badgers that also carry bovine TB. And then there’s the cost. Last year £63 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on TB in England alone. The costs borne by each farmer is considerably more.

“But more than that, controlling TB in the areas identified with high disease levels will help to ensure that other areas of the country, currently without TB, remain disease-free. That has to be in everyone’s best interests.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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