Stalemate with DEFRA over bovine TB set to continue

A stalemate between the farming industry and DEFRA over the way to tackle bovine TB could drag on for months, according to the National Beef Association.

Industry leaders claim DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn has altered the terms of the TB Eradication Group, announced last week (3 November) during a meeting with MPs.

At the meeting on Wednesday (5 November), Mr Benn said the formation of the group did not mean he had changed his mind about a badger cull and that control, rather than eradication, was the immediate priority.

His comments were met with dismay by farming leaders, who had understood the group’s remit included looking at all ways to deal with the disease, including a badger cull.

Kim Marie-Haywood, NBA chief executive, said the farming industry would not take part in the group unless DEFRA stuck to what had been agreed.

But she admitted that not talking to the government was no help either.

“Everyone realised it was no good sitting still because the disease is increasing and nothing’s being done – that’s why we had to engage with DEFRA,” she said.

“But we have to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, or this stalemate could continue for months.

“If the government isn’t prepared to shift its position, we will try to go back to Brussels to get pressure put on the government.”

NFU president Peter Kendall said he was unhappy with Mr Benn’s comments, but vowed to hold DEFRA to its agreed terms.

“We are expected to find solutions on TB, so we will continue to try to make the group work.”