The number of confirmed new cases of bovine tuberculosis in 2006 continues to fall compared with the same period last year.

But DEFRA remains unable to explain the phenomenon.

Provisional statistics released by DEFRA last Friday (23 June) reveal that up until 30 April this year there were 1238 new cases of TB compared with 1699 for the same period in 2005 – a drop of 27%.

Consequently the number of cattle slaughtered due to TB fell 35% from 12,247 to 7952.

While this is the second month in succession that the statistics have revealed a fall in the number of new herd outbreaks, they do not suggest the disease is in retreat but, instead, spreading at a slower rate.

Accompanying the figures was a brief statement from DEFRA warning that it was too early to draw conclusions whether the fall was temporary or a more sustained reduction.