Industry unites to make DEFRA bite the TB bullet

Farming and veterinary leaders have joined forces in a bid to present a united voice to government on bovine tuberculosis, and to step up pressure on DEFRA to tackle the disease in badgers.

Representatives of 12 organisations (see box, opposite) attended an NFU-chaired TB summit yesterday (24 August) to discuss the method and operation of any badger cull.

The aim was to produce a statement for DEFRA, supported by all groups, which details how a cull could be implemented within the constraints outlined by the Independent Scientific Group.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly before the meeting, NFU deputy president and chair of the summit Meurig Raymond said the time had come to “stand together and not leave DEFRA with a way to keep dodging the issue”.

The NFU considered the meeting necessary following NFU president Peter Kendall’s last meeting with DEFRA secretary David Miliband (News, 28 July) which the industry felt was “deeply disappointing”.

“Culling badgers, even diseased ones, is a highly emotive subject.

It’s important that the industry is able to speak with agreement,” said Mr Raymond.

He believes DEFRA is slowly coming to the realisation that a cull will be necessary if the disease that led to the destruction of 11,534 cattle in the first six months of the year is to be tackled. But some ministers at DEFRA remain to be convinced, he said.

“We’re heading for a cull of 24,000 animals this year, that’s equivalent to the level seen in 2004.

At that level there’s simply no way we can achieve our goal of eradication,” he said.

Tenant Farmers Association chairman Reg Haydon said he welcomed the opportunity to work together.

“The benefit of working in close partnership with other farming groups became most apparent when the NFU, CLA and TFA made a collective argument for partial [SFP] payments.

We know we can achieve a great deal when we pull together.”

British Veterinary Association president Freda Scott-Park, expressed her disappointment that DEFRA continued to delay a decision on badger culling.

There was little doubt vets’, as well as farmers’, patience was wearing thin, she said.