10 February 2000
Farmers demand urgent action on TB

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS are lobbying MPs at the House of Commons and demanding more action to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis across the country.

The call came prior to an adjournment debate on the possible link between badgers and bovine TB on Thursday (10 February).

Farmers believe that urgent action is needed, particularly for producers whose farms are outside the areas covered by the governments badger-culling trial.

Bovine TB threatens the livelihoods of more and more farmers, said Brian Jennings, chairman of the National Farmers Union animal health committee.

“By the time the trials are completed, we will be another six years down the line.

“At its current growth, TB in cattle will have spiralled out of control,” he said.

“We need action, particularly for those farmers whose farms are outside the trial area, before this situation gets out of hand.”

Mr Jennings said he had taken heart from “hints” contained in a report by the scientists in charge of the cull that data may be available by the end of they year.

If there is sufficient early data to identify a trend, then the scientists might reconsider their rejection of an NFU proposal to take action outside trial areas.

The trial would still have to proceed as planned, but the report indicates that the scientists may change their mind about culling outside the culling areas.

“It is possible, dependent upon available data, that as the trial continues this policy option could be reconsidered.”

Mr Jennings said that a growing number of livestock farmers across Britain were concerned because TB was a disease they had no control over.

“Even areas which hitherto have thought themselves not to be a risk are being more cautious when they buy cattle,” he said.

Mr Jennings confirmed that he was in a general discussion with MAFF about a national compensation scheme to cover the knock-on costs of bovine TB.

The NFU maintains that the government should foot the bill, but has suggested a nationwide levy, extending to all cattle farmers, to help fund compensation.