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Government fears new beef ban over tuberculosis

24 December 1998
Government fears new beef ban over tuberculosis

THE Government is examining ways of reducing tuberculosis in cattle amid fears that Europe could use the disease to demand a new export ban on British beef …more…



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Government fears new beef ban over tuberculosis

24 December 1998
Government fears new beef ban over tuberculosis

By Johann Tasker

THE Government is examining ways of reducing tuberculosis in cattle amid fears that Europe could use the disease to demand a new export ban on British beef.

In a move which shows ministers want to prevent a BSE-style ban, Government advisers are devising new methods of reducing the transfer of TB between cattle.

Junior farm minister Jeff Rooker said the number of new cases of the disease was now so high that the threat to the industry from TB was second only to that from BSE.

“Were trying to deal with what is a very serious animal health issue in this country,” he told FWi.

“Its the second most important – on a different scale I accept – but the second most important animal health issue weve got to deal with next to BSE.”

Unpublished MAFF figures show a huge year-on-year increase of TB in cattle, with a rise of almost 60% in some parts of the country, and 700 herds are under restriction.

Although the risks to humans from bovine TB are minimal, the boom in statistics could prompt calls for a reintroduction of the recently lifted beef export ban.

That could be avoided if the British Government can show it is successfully doing everything to prevent the disease from getting out of control.

The work on reducing TB transferred from cattle-to-cattle is in addition to the ongoing Krebs trial which is focusing on badger-to-cattle transfer.

The trial, which involves the culling of thousands of badgers, has been criticised by more than 30 European countries who claim that it breaches wildlife protection laws.

Mr Rooker warned that the same countries could demand a re-introduction of the recently lifted beef export ban unless outbreaks were reduced.

“If we allowed TB to get out of control in our cattle, [these people] would be the first to queue up calling for a further ban on British beef and British cattle and British dairy products,” he said. “Were not going to be put in that position.”

Scientific advice on reducing cattle-to-cattle TB outbreaks will be made available to MAFF early in 1999 – possibly as soon as January.

One potential method of reducing TB transfer between herds could be the inclusion of animal health information on cattle passports.

But the involvement of scientists advising MAFF suggests that more substantive methods are also being examined.

However, in a move that is likely to dismay the NFU, Mr Rooker ruled out additional localised badger culls to reduce TB on farms outside the trial areas.

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