Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski, who is also the Chair
of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dairy Farming, arranged
for three farmers and a veterinary expert to speak in person with
Government Minister Ben Bradshaw MP about their worries about bovine
The delegation of farmers travelled from the West Midlands region
to Westminster and included Andrew Bebb, Adrian Joynt and Chris Williamson,
as well as vet Tim O’Sullivan.
The meeting opened with the controversial topic of badger culling,
with the farmers asking the Minister how likely it is that a cull
of badgers to curb the spread of bovine TB will be carried out. Mr
Bradshaw replied that the trialling of a practical and effective
method of culling was being investigated and that a cull had not
been ruled out. However, he emphasised that a cull would need to
be efficient and very wide spread to ensure its effectiveness. The
farmers highlighted the different treatment of Foot & Mouth disease
in 2001, where culling of infected animals was rapidly introduced,
and bovine TB, where the Government has yet to introduce culling
The farmers asked the Minister about the right of a farmer to dispatch
a sick badger. He confirmed that although it is illegal to kill badgers
in the normal course of events, it was permissible for a farmer to
shoot a badger that was clearly diseased, if he was confident he
could prove at a later date that it was indeed sick and suffering.
Mr Bradshaw went on to say that no farmer has ever been prosecuted
for killing a badger in these circumstances.
Continuing on the subject of badgers and bovine TB, the farmers asked
the Minister to look at the possibilities of increased testing of
badgers killed on roads and railway lines, to monitor and control
the spread of TB in the badger population.
The veterinary aspects of bovine TB were discussed, with the delegates
asking why the Government was not considering vaccinating the cattle
population in the UK, although they were looking at the vaccination
of badgers. They further enquired whether the Government was actively
seeking a vaccine that would ensure that milk and meat would be safe
for subsequent consumption.
The discussion moved on to the subject of the testing of cattle for
TB. Current regulations require testing of herds every four years
and the testing of cattle prior to movement. Testing is about to
be extended to include younger animals, doubling the number of tests
required and hence doubling the cost to farmers. The farmers called
instead for a change to annual testing of all herds, believing this
to be both more reliable and effective in detecting the disease and
significantly cheaper and more convenient for the farmer.
The farmers stated that it has been proven that movement of cattle
is not the main cause of the spread of bovine TB. With the cost of
pre-movement testing typically being £2,000 per year, they
asked the Minister to remove this unnecessary burden on cattle farmers.
The Minister argued that as 300 cattle had been positively tested
for TB in this way, that it must continue, but the farmers continued
to challenge the need for the financial burden of this particular
form of testing to fall on them.
“What is painfully clear is that the situation cannot remain
as it is at present,” pointed out Shropshire farmer Andrew
Bebb, “but the Government is not recognising the costs that
the new testing is going to force onto farmers, nor the fact that
the new testing will not change the current crisis”.
The next topic addressed was that of compensation for diseased cattle
test positive for TB. The farmers argued that the compensation tables
do not allow for the differences in value of cattle according to
pedigree, age, milk yield or organic status. They called on the Government
to compensate farmers for the full value of each animal, dismissing
the Minister’s assurance that the matter was being investigated,
on the grounds that the last two consultations on compensation had
completely ignored the views of farmers.
On a separate subject, the farmers asked Mr Bradshaw about the testing
of imports of Brazilian beef, because they believe the tests are
not sufficiently widespread or effective to detect the presence of
Mr Kawczynski commented after the meeting, “it has been interesting
to hear what the farmers had to say to the Minister and to gauge
his reactions. I am particular pleased to hear that he has not ruled
out any of the viable solutions that may stop the spread of this
The meeting concluded with the Minister assuring the farmers that
these matters were all being looked into, while the farmers expressed
a strong wish for this to be done with all due urgency.
The delegation comprised:
Andrew Bebb, NFU Group Chairman - Shrewsbury, Shropshire coordinator
of Farmers For Action, farmer in Shropshire
Chris Williamson, past NFU Group Chairman - Shrewsbury, farmer in
Adrian Joynt, new NFU County, Shropshire, Farm Manager, Walford College
Tim O’Sullivan, vet in Shropshire
Ben Bradshaw MP is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for
Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare in the Department for
the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
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