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Stackyard News Jun 07

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Way Open for Effective Badger Control Strategies

The Independent Scientific Group’s (ISG) report on the control of TB in cattle has re-set the landscape for future negotiation between the farmers and government over reduction of TB spread, the National Beef Association acknowledged today.


However the government’s reaction has still to be revealed so it is premature to think that effective badger culling by farmers will never be approved.

And if the ISG recommendation that cattle testing should be overhauled with greater use of the gamma interferon blood test to support the BSG skin test is accepted it should result in affected herds being under TB restriction for shorter periods.

“It is important to note that the Secretary of State, David Miliband, has accepted a number of critical points,” said NBA chairman, Duff Burrell.

“He has agreed TB remains a serious problem for cattle farmers who face significant financial and personal costs as a result of the disease and that it also cost the tax payer £80 million in the last financial year.”

“He has confirmed that now the Random Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) has ended the moratorium on issuing licences to cull badgers has ended too – which means the way is open to persuading government to approve licences for organised badger culling.”

“And he has also said that although the ISG has made clear its reservations about the practical and economical benefits of any badger culling that the government’s future approach to tackling bovine TB will be based on all available evidence.”

According to the NBA this means farmers can make a case for licensed badger culling as long as the cull area is greater than 300 sq km, it takes advantage of natural geographic boundaries like coastline, rivers and motorways, the culling is simultaneous, conducted each year for at least four years, and covers more than 70 per cent of the area.

“Mr Miliband makes it clear that while the ISG report will be regarded as an important, but not exclusive, part of the evidence base, government will continue to work with industry, government advisors, and scientific experts to develop future policy,” said Mr Burrell.

“This allows farmers to back up applications for culling badgers, and counter the ISG’s isolated scientific conclusions, by putting forward arguments covering the economic, social and environmental impact of a decline in cattle numbers as a result of further TB spread.”

“Which means they can point out that further, catastrophic, TB induced cut backs in the cattle herd will undermine the important economic benefits of abattoirs and dairies in TB hot spot regions, the absence of more cattle will damage both the landscape and important wildlife habitats, and rural social structures will also be undermined if less people are employed in the production of beef and milk.”

Mr Miliband has also said that if the ISG’s recommendations for reducing transmission between cattle are adopted it will increase the cost of the control regime – so the NBA will be pressing Defra to accept this new expense.

“But we think that resistance against some of the proposed cattle measures by those in the centre of the TB storm, which will be welcomed by those for whom TB is an exterior threat, will harden attitudes against badger culling, “ said Mr Burrell.

“Some of the ISG’s cattle-only recommendations, which include more emphasis on the gamma interferon blood test and less on the BSG skin test, should be welcomed although it is also clear that these measures alone will not be able to reduce TB if badgers, which the ISG has confirmed account for almost half of TB in cattle, remain an omnipresent source of re-infection.”

link Cull Options for TB Infected Badgers Must Be Examined Now
link NFU reacts to ISG Bovine TB report findings
link Badger culling is meaningless, report scientists

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