4 August 1995

TBrising sharply despite ministrys eradication claims

By Peter Bullen

THE credibility of MAFFs TB eradication campaign has been "blown to smithereens" by its own figures, claimed Liberal Democrat farm spokesman Paul Tyler.

The MP for Cornwall North was commenting on MAFFs 18th Bovine tuberculosis in badgers report published on Tuesday.

It revealed the extent of tuberculosis among West Country cattle herds last year. Of 362 new confirmed TB breakdowns, 274 were in the south-west – a rise of 18% on 1993.

Cornwall alone, with 106, had as many as the whole of the south-west in 1990. In Devon the number of new confirmed breakdowns almost doubled to 75 and there were 63 in Gloucestershire/Avon, 21 in Wiltshire and seven in Somerset.

But of 1657 MAFF-killed badger carcasses in the south-west examined, only 382 tested positive for TB. Tests on another 428 carcasses submitted by the public revealed only 65 were positive.

These figures destroyed the credibility of MAFFs eradication programme and its claim that the TB storm in the south-west was linked to badgers, said Paul Tyler.

He called for an independent inquiry into MAFFs policy which he said was being questioned more and more by dairy farmers.

He said he would repeat his request for the House of Commons agriculture select committee to probe the issue.

"Unless there is a completely objective outside inquiry I dont see how we can restore the campaigns credibility," he added.

Mr Tyler said he was interested in the reports references to foxes. These showed that while 10 badgers examined near a TB breakdown farm in Worcestershire were all negative two dead foxes examined tested positive.

&#8226 Work on developing a badger TB vaccine started in April last year the report stated. But it could take 15 years to complete.

John Burns