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Stackyard News Dec 05

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    Defra Announces New Measures To Tackle Bovine TB In England

New measures to tackle bovine TB in cattle in England, including the pre-movement testing of cattle and a 12-week consultation on badger culling, were announced by Defra today.

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Bovine TB is a serious infectious disease of cattle, which also affects wildlife and has potential human health risks. It has been increasing at a rate of 18% a year. In 1986, 599 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered because of TB. By 2004, this had increased to 22,570.1 The disease cost the taxpayer £90.5 million last year.

The measures announced today consist of:

  • A public consultation on the principle and method of a badger culling policy in areas of high TB incidence in cattle.
  • The introduction of a requirement for pre-movement testing to reduce the spread of bovine TB through movement of cattle. This requirement will apply to cattle over 15 months of age moving out of 1 and 2 year tested herds.
  • The introduction of a new compensation scheme to bring into line payments for bovine TB and three other cattle diseases. This follows the findings of a number of independent reports showing serious overpayments under the current bovine TB compensation system.

Today’s announcement follows the publication yesterday of interim findings from the Government’s badger culling trials. It also follows a cost benefit analysis by DEFRA of a number of badger culling options drawing on all the available science up to and including the recent trials conducted in the Republic of Ireland.

Animal Health and Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said:

“Bovine TB has reached crisis levels in some parts of the country. It causes great distress to farmers, leads to the costly slaughter of cattle and impacts on the health and welfare of wildlife.

Experience from around the world shows that strict cattle controls are essential if TB is to be contained and eradicated. But it also shows that it is unlikely to be successful unless in addition action is taken to deal with the disease in wildlife. In this country the main wildlife reservoir is in badgers. Recent research has shown that culling badgers in hotspot areas can help reduce the disease. But there is still enough scientific uncertainty – in particular about different culling strategies – to make it important to consult on the principle as well as the method of badger controls.

Pre-movement testing is clearly necessary – particularly if we are to prevent further spread to most of the country which is TB free.

The new compensation arrangements are not only a fairer balance between the tax payer and the farmer but will encourage good husbandry.”

The consultation paper seeks views on three potential options that could be used should badger culling be introduced:

  • Individual licensing;
  • A targeted cull over specific areas linked to the incidence of TB in cattle herds;
  • A general cull over larger areas of high TB incidence.

In addition to these measures, the Government continues to pursue the development of vaccines for cattle and badgers. We will also extend the use of the gamma interferon test as an adjunct to the skin test in order to improve diagnosis of the disease.

Defra is also inviting applications for membership of a new independent stakeholder group to advise Government on bovine TB policies. A separate Press Release will follow giving further details.

1 TB Reactors plus Direct Contacts. 1986 data taken from Animal Health 1987 (The Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer). 2004 data downloaded from State Veterinary Service database on 24 November 2005. All data provisional and subject to change as more data becomes available.

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