The NFU has warned the government about the growing unrest among farmers whose livelihoods are affected by bovine
tuberculosis.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond renewed the union’s call for the government to initiate a targeted cull of badgers – the main wildlife vector – to tackle the disease.

Describing the government’s failure to deliver a response to the consultation, which closed on 10 March, as “overdue”, he said unrest was growing among farmers in the main TB areas at what is seen as a deeply one-sided approach to tackling the disease.

Wearing thin

“Farmers are taking the pain of pre-movement testing and reduced compensation, but patience is wearing thin,” said Mr Raymond.

“If we are ever going to get on top of TB, we have to tackle all aspects of the problem and that means the government grasping the nettle of wildlife controls, and doing it sooner rather than later.”

Mr Raymond said that, although the NFU was prepared to help where possible with a cull, the precise details and operational leadership should be a matter for DEFRA and its agencies, because only they had the necessary information and expertise.

In the meantime, the NFU will maintain its campaign for a change in cattle valuation arrangements, including the inclusion of an appeals mechanism.

The NFU will also press DEFRA to devise a system that properly takes account of the value of a productive herd, for which there is comparatively little data reported.

But the union’s remarks drew stern criticism from the Badger Trust, which described them as “laughable”.

“Everyone in the scientific community, from Sir David Attenborough to DEFRA’s own science advisory council, agrees that targeted badger culling will spread bovine TB.

“It creates a vacuum which draws in other badgers, spreading the disease further afield,” said Trevor Lawson of the Badger Trust.

A DEFRA spokesman refused to be drawn on when the government would announce its response to the consultation, which attracted 48,000 responses.

He said: “We’re still considering responses – a decision will be made in due course.”

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk