South West demands re-think of NFU TB policy

SOUTH West farmers have called on the NFU to fundamentally re-think its approach to bovine TB following Defra’s decision not to roll out badger culling to new areas this year.

The union’s South West region made a plea for a ‘fresh approach’ as TB was debated at last week’s meeting of the NFU council.

After the discussion, South West regional chairman Martin Howlett said the industry had ‘reached a crossroads’, with bTB on the scale of the 1996 BSE announcement and the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Cattle controls

With the prospects of badger culling beyond the Somerset and Gloucestershire pilots now, at best, on hold for at least another year, he said farmers would not accept tighter cattle controls outlined in Defra’s 25-year TB strategy without parallel wildlife control.

Cattle transport

The South West NFU believes TB policy is too heavily weighted on cattle controls

He said: “We have got to the point where politics has overtaken science and the animal welfare issue.

“Every time we take the medicine, but they do not do the other half.

“This is the final nail in the coffin. We have been let down badly and farmers have had enough.

“We called for the council to support a fresh approach to how we tackle TB - nothing out, nothing in.

“Let us not just carry on tinkering around the edges trying to hold on to the 25-year strategy. Let us look at it as a clean sheet of paper.”

Mr Howlett said council members ‘from Cornwall to Cumbria’ backed the South West’s ‘statement of intent to get on top of TB’.

He stressed it was about more than just badger culling. There was also discussion about the costs and benefits of extending one-year testing nationally, highlighting TB was now a national problem.

TB test

TB testing

NFU president Meurig Raymond said the NFU’s livestock and dairy boards were examining the cattle measures outlined in the strategy to assess ‘what is and is not appropriate’.

Political vacuum

NFU president Meurig Raymond said the NFU’s livestock and dairy boards were examining the cattle measures outlined in the strategy to assess ‘what is and is not appropriate’.

“We must make sure the wildlife strategy is intact.],” he said.

“We have a Government strategy, which encompasses wildlife control. The Secretary of State has indicated he wants to roll it out but we are in a political vacuum and he faces opposition in Cabinet.

“We are disappointed we didn’t get roll out this year but the important thing now is to support Somerset and Gloucestershire this season to prove we can deliver, which will put us in a politically strong position next year.

“We need major roll out next year because the farming industry passionately believes it is very difficult to control this disease without wildlife controls.”

Defra Secretary Owen Paterson has insisted the decision on the roll out is merely a delay while lessons are learned from the pilots.

Northern Ireland TB moves

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland is seeking the appointment of an independent chairman to the TB Strategic Partnership Group.

Once formed this Government/industry partnership will develop a long term strategy to eradicate TB from the cattle population.

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