Readers on this site will have seen the reality behind Ben Bradshaw's announcement of a 14 percent drop in bovine TB, (see TB or not TB) but a couple more points have been forwarded to us.
The National Beef Association has pointed out that Defra's own statistics unit at York confirm the March 2004 figure for 'new herd incidents' is 438. That is the highest monthly figure on record. Diplomatically, NBA chief executive Robert Forster is reported as describing the Minister's announcement as ' astonishingly premature'.
Farmers with cattle herds within that group of 438, could no doubt find other adjectives.
It has been suggested that more herds were tested and therefore more breakdowns found. But the figures used to support the "14 percent drop"' announced by our Minister of Conservation and Fisheries, was achieved on 2036 less herds than the previous year (2003 -the year which still had backlogged tests, and which he warned everyone else not to use!), and on 105,161 less cattle.
This in itself would suggest a backlog of cattle testing that is not being cleared.
And when is a registered "cattle holding" not a cattle holding?
When there are no cattle! When they've gone. All sold and sheep, horseyculture or thistles and docks take their place. So another query into Defra's so-called "drop" in bovine TB, concerns "herds under restriction", which is calculated as a percentage of total registered cattle herds on Defra's 'Vetnet' database.
Defra's database doesn't talk to BCMS (British Cattle movement Service) which registers births, marriages and deaths of all bovines in Great Britain. And although the total BCMS registered cattle holdings is roughly the same, herds with active cattle movements are substantially less.
Are you following our train of thought?
Herds under restriction at some time during 2003 on Defra's database were 5393 out of about 97,000 which is just under five percent, supported by PQ's archived on this site.
But on BCMS's database, the number of active cattle holdings - that is those which recorded a movement or 'event' in 2003 was only 81,097. And as a proportion of that figure, herds under restriction are 6.65 percent.
That '14 percent' is some drop. Does the "Emperor" need new clothes - or maybe just a new calculator?