You really would think that Britain’s farmers would all be on-side supporting whatever actions are needed to reduce the scourge of Bovine TB, wouldn’t you?
Last week I explored Defra’s latest proposals to reduce the spread of bTB from cattle to cattle. One of the proposals was to remove the loophole which allowed cattle farmers to apply for partial de-restriction of their holdings. This means that a farmer with a TB reactor in their herd can still move cattle off their farm either to market, or onto other farm holdings. Unsurprisingly Defra report that
“there is evidence that holdings that have been partially de-restricted have a disproportionate number of further TB breakdowns“.
Who would have thought it?
The main reason for this is that the standard test for bTB is not that accurate – about 60%.
You wouldn’t think that this would be a particularly controversial proposal, given the obvious loophole it creates. Think again. The Tenant Farmers Association is objecting to the proposal. They say it will drive cattle farmers out of business. TFA chairman Stephen Wyrill railed against the new proposals. While he agreed the Government should continue to kill badgers, when it comes to more controls on cattle he said “such measures must respect the need for trade to continue within an appropriate risk based system.”
In other words trade is more important than disease control, when it comes to tackling the disease in cattle.
Meanwhile in Cornwall two brothers have been fined (only £6000) for illegally destroying and replacing cattle ear tags (which are used by a vet to label cattle who have a positive TB test reaction), in order to claim TB compensation on an uninfected but injured animal. The judge lambasted one of the farmers for his “old-fashioned views, anger, contempt and disdain for vets and inspectors”. The inspectors found a further 24 cattle whose tags had “disappeared” so there was no way of knowing whether they had TB or not.
With farming organisations like the TFA actively campaigning against the closure of loopholes that even Defra can see are allowing bTB to spread, and individuals like the Collins brothers who are actively abusing the TB control system, is it any wonder that they need a scapegoat like the badger to blame.