Kiwis clobber possums to beat TB

New Zealand cattle look to be just two years from being TB-free, thanks to an NZ$80m/year (£32m/year) programme and a very robust attitude to wildlife culling.

“The situation in New Zealand is very different from that in the UK, because the main wildlife vector, the possum, is considered to be an imported pest for everyone,” Barry O’Neil, deputy director general of MAF Biosecurity New Zealand and president of the World Organisation for Animal Health OIE told a meeting in London this week.

With no natural predators it has been the cause of significant environmental damage. “Nobody likes possums, so it has been very quick and easy to say let’s cull them.

“The real question now is what we should do next, after spending nearly NZ$1bn (£400m) getting to this point,” said Mr O’Neil. Around NZ$57m/year (£29m) of the NZ$80m/year (£32m) spent on NZ’s TB strategy is spent on wildlife culling

“With pasteurisation of milk and post-mortem testing of meat removing any risk to the public the question is whether we should continue to spend NZ$80m/year or should push ahead to eradicate it totally, which would be a huge commitment.”

He acknowledged that the UK situation, with 30,000 animals a year slaughtered due to TB, was complex. “All I can say is that government, industry and vets need to work together and really talk through all the issues.”

* This is the second article in a special FWi mini-series profiling OIE President Barry O’Brien’s speech in London on Tuesday 20 May 2008.

See also: Cost and responsibility sharing roadshow.