NATIONAL BEEF ASSOCIATION
SOUTH WEST BEEF COUNCIL IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE NATIONAL FARMERS UNION
22nd March 2005
Rt Hon. Gordon Brown MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1 Horse Guards Road
Unnecessary escalation of Bovine TB control costs.
Dear Mr Brown
I write to you in desperation hoping you will be the Government Minister capable of biting the political bullet and solving the TB disaster that threatens to swamp several thousand more farms like my own and protect the UK tax payer from wasting even more money protecting the UK’s thriving badger population.
Like other farmers sending the same letter we think Defra Ministers do not appreciate the urgency of the escalating TB situation and appear ready to ignore the urgent plea from 350 working Westcountry veterinary surgeons to immediately begin targeted badger culling in known TB hot spot areas as well as advice offered by the independent scientific panel chaired by Professor Charles Godfray which recommends similar action.
Across the UK bovine TB currently affects almost 6,000 farms and the anti-TB action bill, which is forecast to escalate at a compound rate of 18 per cent a year, stood at £132 million over 2004-2005 and is expected to be £155 million over 2005-2006.
All farmers accept the need to eliminate the smaller proportion of TB spread that can be put down to cattle to cattle transmission but we also know that the ever increasing badger population is the main culprit and here in the Westcountry, where TB is at its hottest, the number of badgers moving through our woods and fields is frightening.
Cattle which have TB are killed immediately but infected badgers not only spread the disease to other cattle and badgers but themselves suffer lingering and painful deaths.
In view of this we feel urgent and immediate action against the disease is imperative – and these are our reasons.
• Avoidable TB control costs should not be shouldered by the taxpayer.
• Overpopulated badgers, which are carnivorous and have no natural predator, are visibly reducing the population of valuable ground nesting birds by eating eggs and chicks.
• The specialist trapping teams used for Defra’s Random Badger Culling Trial work will be disbanded as the trial period begins to wind down before the end of this year. These people have the skills to conduct targeted culling in hot spot areas and once they leave Defra they will be difficult to replace.
• They could be assisted in this by the Polymerase Chain Reaction test which can identify infection levels through badger faeces and so help to identify the localities in which targeted culling should take place.
We are not naturally politically active people but the current situation is intolerable to us because it is driving farmers like ourselves closer to the edge of ruin and despair.
We hope you are able to appreciate that when people like ourselves are forced into a situation in which they have no control over damage to their livelihoods they inevitably become increasingly desperate.
Our view is, and we do have first hand knowledge of the impact of diseased badgers on our businesses, that the co-ordinated and careful removal of targeted populations will be an excellent national investment because at proportionately little expense it will soon reverse TB spread and reduce costs to the taxpayer.
This would also reinforce the principle of industry/government cooperation which lies behind Defra’s new Animal Health and Welfare Strategy and help to secure future access to international bovine product markets which would be threatened if TB incidence continued to compound at current rates.
We think the action you would need to take are:
• Remove the moratorium on the targeted culling of diseased badgers which was placed on the 1975 Badger Protection Act in 1992.
• Introduce legislation that allows the police to detain, and the courts to punish, anyone found guilty of interfering with trapping or other badger culling work.
• Allow Defra the resources to manage and control this unnecessarily expensive disease and enjoy the cost reduction that will soon become evident in both the medium and long term.
We sincerely believe that the health and welfare of both the national badger and cattle populations depends on such action and of course we are also deeply concerned with the economic damage this escalating disease is inflicting on our own businesses and the agricultural community in general.
We look forward to your help.
Please send this letter, or your own letter to: N.B.A, The Firs, Blackmore Park Road, Malvern, Worcs, WR13 6PH.