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Stackyard News Jun 06

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NFU "mired in confusion" over bovine TB

The Badger Trust today warned farmers that the National Farmers Union is "mired in confusion" over the bovine tuberculosis issue and cannot be trusted to offer a rational approach to managing the disease.

photo courtesy of The Badger Trust


The assertion follows the NFU's latest statement on bovine TB control, in which it states that:

"a cull should be targeted towards infected populations of badgers living in areas in which bovine TB is considered to be endemic within the species. This means that ‘hotspot’ areas in parts of the South West, for example, should be targeted for a cull".

Trevor Lawson, spokesman for the Badger Trust, commented:

"The NFU is clearly mired in confusion over bovine TB and its demands are becoming increasingly irrational.

"Only two weeks ago, NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond called for a cull 'which should be targeted as closely as possible at badger social groups known to be infected'. Now, the NFU admits that there are no reliable tools for detecting infection in badger social groups.

Instead, it proposes the extermination of badgers across entire hotspots. The land within 2.5km of infected farms totals between 19,650 km2 – 25,200 km2 in England alone. No one in their right mind could think that such a strategy could be implemented. It would not be cost effective, it would be impossible to deliver and, judging from the 47,000 responses to the Government's culling consultation, tax payers would not be prepared to fund it.

"What is consistent in both statements from the NFU is their complete incoherence. Mr Raymond said that 'the precise details of any cull, and operational leadership, should be a matter for the Defra'. The latest statement says that 'different situations and areas would call for different approaches'. The NFU demands that 'something must be done', but it clearly hasn't the faintest idea what it should be.

"The NFU claims that its response to the Government's consultation contains more information. That response states: 'some areas may lend themselves to what is currently classified as a targeted cull and others to a general cull, depending on the size, disease status of herds, farming types and geographical features will all affect how an area is treated'. It is astonishingly vague and no better than a policy sketched out on the back of an envelope. The NFU does not explain the difference between 'targeted' and 'general' culls and nor does it offer a shred of scientific evidence to justify any particular culling policy for a single given set of circumstances.

"However, the NFU's latest statement contains one sensible admission:
'badger secretion (in faeces) of the Mycobacterium bovis bacillus (the organism that causes the disease in cattle and badgers) is low, and the organism may not be present in a soil or faeces sample which is tested'. This contrasts with the NFU's current 'facts' leaflet, which blames badger faeces as one route of transmission from badgers to cattle."

link Defra cannot let farmers down over badger cull, says NBA
link NFU badger culling demand "laughable" say conservationists
link How we beat bovine TB before: Badger Trust
link More top scientists reject badger culling to control bovine TB

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