Farmers left to shoulder TB brunt

THE NATIONAL Beef Association has been left feeling incensed by comments from junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw about tackling the problem of bovine TB.

Speaking at the environment, food and rural affairs meeting on Wed (May 26) Mr Bradshaw said that the future short-term policy on the control of bovine TB would largely be based on improved biosecurity measures undertaken by farmers.

The NBA now feels that the months it has spent preparing a consultation response may have been a waste of time.

“DEFRA told consultees it wanted their help in constructing a long-term strategy against TB and said it was ready to consider a range of ideas from targeted badger culling to the removal of cattle from areas with sustained TB infection” said Robert Forster, NBA chief executive.

“In our reply we accepted there is a degree of cattle-to-cattle spread and so were prepared to accept DEFRA‘s proposal for pre-movement testing of cattle from high-risk TB areas.

“However, we also made it clear that TB spread could not be stabilised, let alone reduced, by cattle-to-cattle transmission – which is relatively minor.

“And so we said that the badger‘s unmistakable contribution could no longer be ignored, therefore, targeted, relatively local culling strategies in areas where there was regular cattle re-infection had to be considered too.” 

The minister seems to think that barricading farm buildings against badgers will save cattle from TB, said Mr Forster.

But it is obvious cattle are many more times more likely to contract the disease when they graze badger contaminated pasture, he added.