An investigation by the Badger Trust has revealed a large disparity in the enforcement of animal health, welfare and transport regulations across the counties in England and Wales badly affected by TB.

The Badger Trust used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to obtain details from DEFRA of livestock movement infringements.

According to the Trust’s report, during the 21 months between 1 January 2004 and 30 September 2005, farmers, hauliers, abattoirs and livestock markets in England and Wales breached animal health, welfare and transport regulations more than 65,000 times.

Although no examples are given the report states that the offences range in severity from the most minor to the severest breaches – in one case, a prosecution resulted in a fine of £100,000.

The report reveals that, depending on which county you live in, it is a lottery as to whether you will face prosecution for the infringements.

Farmers in Cornwall who breach regulations are 15 times more likely to face prosecution than farmers in neighbouring Devon.

When viewed as a whole the ratio of warnings to prosecutions was 57:1 for England and Wales.

As an explanation for this inconsistency the report recognises the pressures on local authorities such as:

Lack of staff resources, recent intakes of untrained staff and, in some cases, lack of support from county councillors.

It also recognises that in some cases giving advice and formal warnings is more successful in ensuring the law is complied with than taking legal action.

However, the Trust cites the report as a cause for concern in the fight against diseases such as bovine tuberculosis.

“Limited enforcement activity in some counties means that infectious disease controls, such as pre-movement testing of cattle for TB, may be ineffective,” said the Trust.