Thursday, July 08, 2004

When grown men cry, the Minister smiles.

Tony Yewdall from North Devon and his son Jonnie, were filmed yesterday watching a Tb test on his Island Guernsey cattle. This was the fourth consecutive 60 day test for this herd, and will result in the slaughter of 14 more animals, some baby calves just 3 months old.

From being one of the largest Guernsey herds, carefully built over the last 50 years,this predominantly home bred and beautifully kept group look set to become one of the smallest. As they are subject to relentless and continuing infection from the badger setts which not only surround the farm, but have now encroached right into the cattle grazing areas, the Yewdalls have lost nearly 90 to Tb.

Describing his feelings as young calves, and heavily in calf cows were condemned, the vet reading the test results said he felt "like an executioner". Jon Yewdall, clearly very distressed asked for
the cameras to be stopped.

Cut to camera shot of Mr. Bradshaw, Minister of Fisheries and Conservation and MP for Exeter.

After expressing sympathy for the Yewdall family, and hiding behind the ongoing Krebbs trials, (ongoing just long enough to get him to the next election?), Mr. Bradshaw perked up considerably and smiling for the cameras told us that Tb was actually going down. His policies (unspecified) were working as the number of cattle culled was lower than the previous 18 months.
Really? Defra's web site stats tell a different tale.

1. 2001 Very little testing due to FMD. Do not use for comparisons.

2. 2002 Backlog of tests. High risk herds targeted first. Do not use for comparisons.

3. 2003 Defra hope to clear the backlog of tests on high risk herds by May 2003.

Vets are stressed, abattoirs jammed and Reactor cattle left on farm for weeks. Even test results and notices of isolation and/or slaughter are taking 5 weeks to arrive from Defra's offices.
So just what data is Mr. Bradshaw using to support the statement of a drop in bovine Tb, that made him so happy last night?

Data from 2002 and 2003, when testing was targeted at high risk herds and backlogged, and came with a government 'health warning'.
Do not use for comparative purposes, the site said.
And in the spring of 2004 - the period which made Mr. Bradshaw so happy - Defra tested 2036 less herds and 105,000 less cattle.
Then compared this to - 2003!


The increase from 2000, the last year which did not carry a Defra warning, exceeds even Government predictions of a 20 percent increase annually. Cattle slaughtered, (including several lorry loads of Mr. Yewdall's in calf Guernseys) has increased 149 percent, and new herd breakdowns by almost 80 percent. Cattle slaughtered doubled in 3 years, and has increased by 25 percent annually.

And Mr. Bradshaw smiled.

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