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
“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
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
“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.”
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