THE NATIONAL Beef Association has slated junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw for making an “astonishingly premature” statement on bovine tuberculosis.

In May Mr Bradshaw announced that bovine TB had dropped in the first quarter of 2004 by 14% when compared with the same period of 2003.

While the minister urged caution on the results, he drew the conclusion: “It is important to take note that some of the measures we have been taking have had some impact.”

But the latest monthly figure (March 2004) shows new herd incidents at 438, the highest monthly figure ever recorded by DEFRA‘s statistics unit based in York. 

NBA chief executive Robert Forster said: “Obviously, the minister cannot see the wood for the trees.

“Stating in May that TB was in decline was astonishingly premature of Mr Bradshaw.

“He should have thought how his statement would sound to those who are suffering under restrictions and whose livelihoods are still being devastated by this dreadful disease.”

A DEFRA spokeswoman defended Mr Bradshaw‘s May statement saying that the rise in cases for March could be attributed to an increase in testing.