Defra’s decision to use the gamma-interferon blood test
to increase the accuracy of the TB testing regime will be a useful
step forward in detecting infection in cattle, but attacking TB
at source remains the key to making lasting progress in controlling
and eradicating the disease, says the NFU.
Similarly, while the NFU endorses the Chief Veterinary Officer’s
conclusion that the recent fall in the number of new outbreaks
of TB does appear to be genuine, it points out that, with 1,769
new outbreaks in the first half of 2006, involving the slaughter
of over 11,000 cattle, the incidence of disease remains at a totally
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “The CVO’s
announcement today is fine as far as it goes, but it still does not
get to the root of the TB problem, which is the reservoir of disease
“The increased use of the gamma interferon blood test will
make it easier to stamp out isolated outbreaks of disease, away from
the main hotspot areas, where TB is not established in the badger
population and cattle are not at risk of re-infection.
“But additional testing will be of little value to the thousands
of farmers in the hotspot areas whose herds are constantly exposed
to infection spreading from wildlife as a result of the Government’s
refusal so far to deal with disease in badgers.
“The increased use of the gamma interferon test – which
is known to produce a higher proportion of false positives – also
reinforces the need for a fair system of compensation.
“Even after the recent fall in the number of new TB outbreaks,
the figures amount to a damning indictment of the Government’s
record on dealing with a disease which, with more political courage,
could and should have been eradicated years ago.
“An improved cattle testing regime is part of the answer to
the spread of the disease. But it will make no difference to the source
of the problem, and until we get to grips with that, TB will remain
a scourge, to cattle, badgers and farmers alike.”
Mr Raymond added the NFU was satisfied with the outcome of the review
carried out on TB testing procedures.
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