5 December 2001
Test complacency increases TB fears
By Alistair Driver
GOVERNMENT complacency could see bovine tuberculosis spreading to cattle in previously disease-free areas, pro-badger campaigners have warned.
The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) says the government has not tested cattle for TB for almost five years in some low-risk areas.
And the foot-and-mouth crisis means some cattle in TB hotspots, which should be tested annually, have not been tested for two years, it claims.
Ministers have admitted that the nine-month suspension of TB testing has resulted in a backlog of tests for 8000 herds which are most at risk.
Testing has now recommenced in some areas which are free of foot-and-mouth, the government announced on Friday (30 November).
But farmers restocking after foot-and-mouth are most at risk, claims NFBG executive officer Elaine King.
Dr King said at least eight known major TB hotspots have not lost stock to foot-and-mouth and could become major suppliers of cattle for restocking.
“The government is allowing cattle to be exported from TB hotspots without testing them first,” she claimed.
“This is extraordinary complacency on the part of ministers.”
Dr King said ministers were warned by their own Independent Scientific Group (ISG) that TB testing before the foot-and-mouth crisis was inadequate.
The ISG warned in July that testing was likely to miss the spread of TB within herds, she claimed.
“Now, the situation has worsened. Cattle have been cooped up in the same barns and fields for up to six months, in deteriorating conditions.
“We believe that TB will have taken every opportunity to spread within herds during that period.”
The NFBG says the greatest risk of spreading bovine TB is through contact between cattle, and rejects claims that badgers are primarily to blame.