Camelids and alpacas could be brought into the testing regime for TB under a Conservative government, shadow farm minister Jim Paice has said.
Speaking exclusively to Farmers Weekly at the Tory party conference in Manchester, Mr Paice said he realised concern was growing about the reported reservoir of disease in the animals.
And he said the presence of TB in camelids needed tackling, even though many owners were against TB tests being carried out.
“I understand a lot of camelid owners don’t want to get involved, but if the disease is there it needs addressing,” he said.
Mr Paice said issues around compensation, whether statutory power was needed to enforce testing and the true extent of the disease in camelids needed considering before camelids could be brought into the testing regime.
“These things need to be guided by science and haven’t had scientific advice about how important it is yet,” he said.
“But if it can be proved it affects other animals and humans it needs looking at.”
Mr Paice’s comments came as he continued to work on a comprehensive TB strategy for England, which included implementing a badger cull.
He said he had recently been to Ireland to look at the culling system carried out there, which involved culling badgers in a 500m radius around an infected farmstead.
“I wouldn’t want people to think I have gone to Ireland and got all the answers, but it gave me a great deal of useful information,” he added.
“The only way to deal with TB is a comprehensive strategy. Just killing badgers isn’t the solution, but culling them has to be part of it.
“I’m in the process of trying to draw up the complex package, including whether badgers are carrying infections in individual sets, different systems of testing, whether there are alternative methods to skin test which, the issue of cattle to cattle transmission and how significant that is. They all need to be thought through.”
Mr Paice said by planning a way to tackle the disease now meant a badger cull could begin “almost straight away” if the Conservatives won at the general election next year.
“We don’t want to wake up on Monday morning and ask how to control TB,” he said. “We will have a clear plan.”