19 October 2000
Union quits TB Forum
By Donald MacPhail
DISILLUSIONED National Farmers Union representatives have walked out of a forum on bovine tuberculosis, branding it “a farce”.
Brian Jennings, NFU animal health and welfare committee chairman, said he quit through frustration at the lack of progress the TB Forum was making.
He said conservation group representatives took an entrenched stance and would not discuss solutions in which involved killing badgers.
Their intransigence delayed other measures on testing and market restrictions, said Mr Jennings, while farmers face misery as TB in cattle rates soared.
The government launched the TB Forum last year for government representatives and farming, veterinary, and conservation bodies to consider TB controls.
After resigning Mr Jennings said: “The whole forum is nothing more than a talking shop, and I am not prepared to continue this farce any longer while my members are so desperate.
“This has meant that genuine progress towards any sort of holistic approach to the bovine TB issue is rendered impossible.
“The constraints put upon the forum by those with a different agenda have rendered our efforts futile.”
But the National Federation of Badger Groups claimed the NFU had tried to hijack the forum to have more badgers culled.
It added: “It is astonishing that Brian Jennings says that testing procedures and market restrictions are being delayed unnecessarily.
“The NFBG and its partners have been advocating these measures for years.”
The NFBG said as the Government is investing more than 34 million into research primarily focused on badgers, it was essential that the forum considered alternatives.
“However, it is clear from the NFUs resignation that it has neither the will nor the initiative to change its way of working.”
The NFU still supports ongoing trials, which involve killing thousands of badgers to see whether they give cattle TB, but says immediate action is needed.
Now the union will lobby the Government directly for a holistic approach which would include testing, improved husbandry and culling badgers.
According to the NFU, the percentage of UK cattle herds under TB restrictions has risen in the past five years from 1.2% to 2.9%.