8 March 2002

Industry calls for action now

THE tuberculosis outbreak in the closed herd at Ocle Court has sparked an angry reaction from vets and industry leaders but they hope that infections in a growing number of closed herds will show government it has to tackle the disease before it becomes a huge animal health issue.

Past president of the British Veterinary Association, Francis Anthony, whose practice colleague did the positive tests told farmers weekly: "It goes against every principle of disease control to cull one species and do nothing about a proven feral pool of infection.

"In Herefordshire we have cases of bovine tuberculosis coming out of our ears. We are finding reactors on 70% of farms we test. TB is threatening to put many of our clients out of business."

Waiting for the results of current trials is not acceptable and he wants testing of badgers on farms with reactors.

NFU vice-president Tim Bennett said he felt very angry and frustrated about the upsurge in TB.

"As a cattle farmer myself I feel passionately about this issue. Successive governments have failed the industry and this disease is now spreading quickly and widely. The same rules must be applied to wildlife as to cattle, or we will have areas of prime cattle land that cannot be farmed economically."

The NFU has requested an urgent meeting with agriculture minister Elliot Morley to discuss emergency action to bring TB under control, and long term measures to eradicate it.

Farmers Union of Wales leaders will next week launch a new campaign to convince politicians to take the upsurge in TB cases more seriously.

"We have masses of anecdotal evidence from our county branches, and from farmers like Mr Oliver whose businesses have been hit hard, but, unfortunately, official figures are somewhat historical," says spokesman Alan Morris. "Many of our members believe there is now a real risk of TB becoming a huge national animal health problem."

But Elaine King chief executive of the National Federation of Badger groups said it was wrong to blame badgers and insisted testing would achieve little because tests prior to 1995 showed most badgers did not carry the disease. Dr King blamed the outbreak in the closed herd in Herefordshire on deer instead. &#42