THE CHAIRMAN of the NFU‘s livestock board has said the union should refuse to work with government on its Animal Health and Welfare Strategy until there is action on bovine tuberculosis.

Richard Haddock told NFU Council on Monday (June 28) that he did think the strategy was a good move, but it relied on farmers working in partnership with government.

“At this point I say go no further and refuse to move forward, unless the government shows us some real partnership and moves on TB.”

Mr Haddock said junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw had issued figures showing that the number of herds affected by the disease was falling, but this was not the case.

“He says the figures are going down, but there was an increase of 149% in England between 2000 and 2004,” he said.

“In the south west there is a three-month backlog on TB testing. We have had enough.”

Mr Haddock was supported at the meeting by Devon county chairman Martin Hann, who said he had met the minister and found him to be arrogant and contemptuous of farmers‘ problems.

“I do not see how we can welcome this strategy without government tackling the wildlife reservoir of TB,” he said.

Vice-president Meurig Raymond said the situation was totally unsatisfactory and farmers could not afford to wait until 2007/8 for the government to take action.

“At the moment there are 3200 herds under restriction, which is 4-5% of the national herd. That is a scandalous situation in which we find ourselves,” he said.

Mr Raymond said all farmers wanted to see was a clean livestock population living alongside a clean wildlife population.

Jan Rowe, the union‘s TB spokesman, said it was absolutely vital that an interim strategy was developed to stop hotspot areas from growing and this strategy had to include wildlife control measures.

But he said it was a myth that farmers felt the TB problem was all to do with badgers – they knew cattle measures were important.