The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has expressed dismay that Government’s announcement for a £20 million research and development package to develop bTB vaccines represents little new funding. Furthermore, the availability of both cattle and badger vaccines continue to remain more than six years away.
“Almost half of the £20 million funding had already been allocated for bTB vaccine research, leaving only the remainder as likely new money,” commented RABDF chairman, Lyndon Edwards following the environment minister, Hilary Benn’s official announcement on its bTB policy on Monday not to issue licences to allow badger culling.
“The Minister also confirmed that an oral badger vaccine would not be available until 2014, and while research for an injectable cattle vaccine is underway, its earliest likely launch date is 2015. Last year, bTB led to a cull of 28,000 head, up 40% on the year; if the trend continues, then that figure will have risen to well over 400,000 head for 2015, a figure that can’t be taken lightly. In the meantime, government will have to overturn current EU legislation that prohibits cattle vaccination. We also beg the question, who is going to pay for and administer these vaccines, in particular that for badgers.”
RABDF is led to believe that government’s entire bTB vaccine research funding programme has so far been placed with its own scientists. “bTB research is likely to continue to remain in government research institutes because it has very, very limited appeal for commercial take up; its marketplace is confined to relatively very small numbers and restricted within the UK,” he said.
“In the meantime, the issue of Defra’s proposed responsibility and cost sharing policies will not go away, and we fail to see how dairy farmers will be able to participate when continued burdens are being placed on them and further increases in movement restrictions are only going to increase costs. For example, RABDF’s farmer survey earlier this year concluded that bTB pre-movement testing is already costing livestock producers more than £15 per animal, a figure that we deem is a major cost sharing burden to businesses, and one that continues to be ignored.”
He adds: “Hilary Benn stated he would reconsider his decision against a licenced cull in the light of evidence. We question what evidence that needs to be in view of the fact scientific evidence which we believe to be important has so far been ignored by Government. Ministers and their officials need to remember that scientific fact over rules public emotion.”
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