The British Veterinary Association is the latest industry body to write to junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw calling for increased action to tackle bovine tuberculosis.
In the letter sent last Friday, and signed by BVA president Freda Scott-Parker and her predecessor Bob McCracken, the BVA urges the government to “take action to tighten control measures within the cattle population” based on a regional approach.
The BVA’s call for a move away from the testing regime based on parish status echoes a similar call made by the Country Land & Business Association (News, 23 September).
It argues that the regional approach is more suitable, as it “accounts for differences in local prevalence of bovine tuberculosis”.
The BVA, however, does not shy away from the threat posed by infected badgers. The letter calls on DEFRA to start tackling the disease humanely in the badger population, arguing that waiting another year for the publication of the culling trials before posing action will pose a further risk to animal health and welfare.
Recognising that eradication of the disease over the next 10 years might not be achievable, the BVA argues that any new measures introduced should be aimed at eradicating the disease in the long-term “because bTB costs the industry, government and the tax payer millions of pounds a year”.
Enclosed with the BVA’s letter was a list of recommendations for the control and surveillance of the disease and a supporting document to support these recommendations.
On the same day BVA sent the letter, DEFRA published statistics revealing that bovine TB continues to spread.
Up until 31 August this year, 21,080 (1489 short of the 2004 total) cattle had been slaughtered due to bovine TB, a 12% increase on the previous month’s total and a rise of 36% for the same eight-month period last year.
Responding to the BVA letter, a DEFRA spokesman said: “We are analysing all research including the recent badger culling trials in the Republic of Ireland and expect to complete the work shortly. We recognise this disease as one of the most difficult animal health problems we face.”