TB threat acknowledged

30 April 1999

TB threat acknowledged

but trial is not extended

By Shelley Wright

TUBERCULOSIS in cattle poses a potentially catastrophic threat to the British farming industry, acknowledges a new report by parliaments agriculture select committee.

But the report concludes that, although the current TB control trial being pursued by government should be speeded up, no additional action should be taken outside the trial area.

Best hope

The trial, designed by professors Krebs and Bourne, offered the best hope of finding a scientific, effective and lasting solution, it said.

The MPs on the committee also bowed to MAFFs argument that, within current spending limits, there could be no increase in compensation to reflect the consequential losses associated with herd breakdowns – despite their acceptance that existing compensation covered just 16% of the total cost of a TBoutbreak.

"The consequences to the farming industry if current levels of TB incidence are maintained, or worse continue to increase, clearly warrant the attention now being paid to the issue," the report said.

A total of 736 new herds were affected with TB in 1998, involving the slaughter of 6086 cattle – an increase of more than 50% on the previous year.

The committee criticised MAFF for the delays that have already crept into the TB trial.

"A solution is needed with some urgency if the problem is not to gain an even greater hold on ever widening areas of the country. The latest statistics on the increased rate and widening geographical distribution of herd breakdowns are alarming," it said.

Full implementation

The MPs urged government to ensure full implementation of all 10 trial areas by next Feb. "We recognise the logistical difficulties this involves but we consider it to be essential. Further delays cannot be tolerated," said the report.

MAFF should also reintroduce the survey of badgers killed in road traffic accidents as soon as possible. And further research was also advocated, including the importance of cattle to cattle transmission and the potential role of trace elements in bovine TB.

Most promising

A need for accelerated research, funded by government, to investigate the most promising husbandry practices likely to assist in controlling the disease was also highlighted.

The committee singled out the Wildlife Trusts for particular criticism in the report over its refusal to allow badger culling on any of its land.

"We believe they have a responsibility to show more leadership and to consider the issue in a more balanced fashion," the committee said. "We hope the Wildlife Trusts will reconsider their decision not to comply."

&#8226 See page 35, for more details

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