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Government to look at radical options on TB

29 January 1999
Government to look at radical options on TB

GOVERNMENT ministers are set to consider radical new measures to stem the spread of cattle tuberculosis – now being reported in areas free from the disease for more than 40 years …more…
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Government to look at radical options on TB

29 January 1999
Government to look at radical options on TB

By Johann Tasker

GOVERNMENT ministers are set to consider radical new measures to stem the spread of cattle tuberculosis – now being reported in areas free from the disease for more than 40 years.

The measures, which could include restricting cattle movements from the TB areas of south-west England, are likely to anger some farmers.

Other measures which could be put before ministers include additional localised badger culls and no-go areas for cattle.

Click here to have your say Cattle infected with the disease have now been found as far north as Derbyshire. There are also unconfirmed reports that four recent TB outbreaks in Cheshire originated from infected cattle from Shropshire.

The situation is so bad that additional methods of cutting bovine TB should be examined urgently, said John Bourne, head of the governments badger culling trial.

“Theres a real problem in the UK and Im very worried about it,” he said.

The disease is already resulting in the deaths of more livestock than badgers. Over 4000 cattle were slaughtered last year because of TB, compared with the 2000 badgers scientists expect to cull in 1999.

NFU officials expect to lobby ministers for additional anti-TB measures outside the trial areas in the near future.

They are looking at a limited badger cull in hot-spot areas outside the trial zones. Other ideas include no-go areas for cattle on infected farms and restricting cattle movements in the south-west.

“We have to be aware that some TB is spread by movement of cattle,” said Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFU animal health and welfare committee. “If these are measures which will be cost-effective … to reduce that risk, then we have to look at them as well.”

The idea would be welcomed by conservation groups opposed to killing badgers. The National Federation of Badger Groups favours restricting cattle movements, increasing the frequency of cattle TB tests and including TB information on cattle passports.

“There is a lot of common ground,” said Dr Elaine King, NFBG conservation officer. “The issue always gets polarised towards badgers and then there are always going to be disagreements about how much they are involved.”

The two sides agreed this week to meet in the near future to thrash out a way forward. According to a MAFF insider, ministers will not accept wholesale slaughter of badgers or cattle, but are open to other suggestions.

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