The NFU has accused DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn of an ‘abdication of responsibility’ for refusing to cull badgers as part of a TB control programme.
In a blistering statement, union president Mr Kendall denounced Mr Benn for saying ‘no’ to a cull, despite admitting that it ‘might work’ in his statement to the House of Commons.
The NFU has today (Tuesday, 8 July) taken out full page adverts in The Times and regional press which feature a slaughtered cow and the line: “She needed indecision on TB like she needed a hole in the head.”
The advert calls for decisions based on “scientific facts, not sentimentality.” The advert will appear in Farmers Weekly on Friday (11 July).
“Despite his promise to base his decision on the facts, Mr Benn has ignored the scientific evidence of the ISG report, the recommendation of the EFRA select committee and that of Professor Sir David King, in reaching his conclusion. It is a total non decision,” said Mr Kendall.
“To admit that a cull might work, and then push the already crippling burden of TB controls further onto the farming industry is just plain wrong. It is ridiculous to expect farmers to continue fighting TB with one hand tied behind their back.
“While we support and welcome the development of vaccines for both cattle and badgers, to suggest this is the answer for an industry being decimated by TB in hotspot areas is no kind of answer at all. For many farmers, the ‘medium to long term’ answer of badger vaccines to which the Secretary of State refers will simply be too long in coming.
“At a time when we have the Prime Minister telling the public not to waste food, it is astonishing the government is prepared to continue to preside over the needless waste of tens of thousands of productive cattle,” said Mr Kendall.
Mr Kendall also called into question the Secretary of State’s claim that the decision had been based on what would be ‘effective and practical’.
“That is a ludicrous suggestion when what he is now proposing is merely an extension of a policy that has been completely ineffective in controlling the spread of TB.”
Mr Kendall also announced an immediate withdrawal from current DEFRA policy discussions on responsibility and cost sharing, and pledged to fight any attempt by government to transfer existing costs to the industry, or establish a disease levy.
“We will also be seeking the support of the rest of the livestock industry in resisting these measures, whilst government is not addressing the full cost of TB,” said Mr Kendall.
“The Secretary of State has also announced a new bovine TB partnership group. The NFU can only see value in participating in this group if it is visibly independent and has full jurisdiction over all TB policy matters. Otherwise, we see little value in being part of yet another industry group on TB,” said Mr Kendall, who called for the establishment of an independent body on animal health, able to take tough decisions on animal disease free of political concerns over public acceptability.”
For more see our TB special report page.