10 January 2001
NFU: Badger report skates over issue

By Donald MacPhail

A NEW report on badgers and bovine TB “skates over” the very real problems facing cattle farmers whose stock are hit by the disease, it is claimed.

The National Farmers Union criticises the report from the Agriculture Committee for not fully drawing attention to the escalation of the disease.

The cross-party group of MPs express concerns at delays in the Krebs culling trials to establish if badgers transmit the disease to livestock.

But it does not go far enough for NFU president Ben Gill.

“Against this background the delays in the Krebs trials – which the committee mentions only in passing – are not merely regrettable.

“They are proving disastrous to thousands of farmers and their families caught up in this rapidly expanding problem,” he said.

Mr Gill called on the Government to act on the outcome of the earliest valid results from the trials and for urgent action to control TB in new areas.

In addition, the costs to farmers of milk quota and additional feed and housing as a result of herd movement restrictions must be alleviated.

The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) praised the report for focusing on alternative strategies to culling.

The committee called for more resources for a “half-hearted” badger roadkill survey, more work on husbandry and said a cattle vaccine offered the best solution.

“We are grateful to the MPs for recognising the fact that, despite its claims to the contrary, the Ministry of Agriculture is really only interested in killing badgers,” said Dr Elaine King of the NFBG.

She said the NFBG and other groups had provided recommendations for controlling bovine TB in cattle and be acceptable both to farmers and the public.

“We now look forward to working with Ministers to see these recommendations implemented as a matter of urgency.”

Under the five-year trials in 10 “hot spot” areas 12,500 badgers would be exterminated.

The NFU says almost 3% of UK cattle herds are under TB restrictions and 30,000 cattle have been slaughtered as a result of controls since 1996.