NBA’s TB action letters get a response

BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS is a “challenging, urgent and complex issue,” and the government aims to achieve a steady reduction “over the next 10 years,” according to junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw.

The comment was made in reply to 1450 letters, calling for action to tackle bovine TB, which were delivered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the National Beef Association last month (News, Jul 1).

The letters were passed to Mr Bradshaw because he is the minister for animal welfare.

In his reply Mr Bradshaw said he shared the NBA’s concerns about the problem of bovine TB.  But, he said, while there is little doubt badgers are implicated in the spread of the disease, two questions remain to be answered:

  • Is there evidence that culling badgers can reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle?

  • Would culling badgers be practical, sustainable and cost-effective as part of a wider cattle bovine TB control programme?

The minister backed the role of the Krebs trials – due to conclude in March 2006 – in assessing the effectiveness of badger culling in reducing the incidence of bovine TB in infected areas.

The government was not ruling out badger culling to control the disease, he said, but none would be carried out while the trials were still ongoing.

Bill Harper, NBA south west representative, said he remained encouraged by the minister’s response despite no commitment to implement a badger cull.

“It’s one step forward, but there are still many more to be taken,” he said.

This week Mr Bradshaw visited the Republic of Ireland where, as part of his visit, he learned more about the Four Areas culling trial and its impact on TB in the affected areas.

“We hope the minister will return from his visit to the ROI with enough evidence to instigate a controlled plan of action in hotspot areas,” said Mr Harper.

To read Mr Bradshaw’s reply in full click here