Saturday, September 04, 2004

"Some animals are more equal than others"

Following our story of the effect of bovine tb on rare and endangered cattle breeds, (and comments) this site has received a letter from a member of the RBST (Rare Breeds Survival Trust), which we reproduce in full.

"I have been involved with the RBST for some 15 years. My father- in- law was given the task in the early 70's , by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) of chairing the committee which was set up to move forward the whole idea of preserving endangered species of native farmed animals. The result was the RBST, and from that foundation I suppose you could say that the family has had, and still has a great interest in the fortunes of our native breeds of cattle.

During the time the Trust has been operating, there have been various threats to the surival of our 'Living National Treasures' which are looked after by the organisation's members. We have had BSE, the steady decline of small local abattoirs, and the horrific FMD epidemic in 2001. But remarkable though it may seem, all these pale into insignificance when compared to the ongoing situation which now faces our national cattle herd and their keepers, through the insidious, stealthy march of bovine tb, and the resultant loss of tens of thousands of cattle each year.

It is a disease which, until a very few years ago had almost been consigned to the history books, through the sterling work done in the 50's, 60's and 70's to eradicate it. At present action is being taken against bovine tb - but on only one side of the playing field, leaving the path wide open for continuous reinfection. A re run if you like of King Canute, with beleaguered cattle farmers only able to watch as bovine tb maintains its relentless march.

The disease in infected wildlife is being left unchecked (all but for a few token 'experiments') by a Government that prefers to turn a blind eye to the horrific consequences of its intransigence, in order to pander to a small but vociferous minority of misguided and misinformed people. The same people who have created an Industry out of preserving a single species of wildlife, which was misguidedly afforded 'protected' status and which H.M. Government now admits is endemic with a highly infectious (zoonotic) disease.

This is a clear case of some animals being more equal than others.
If there is a disease problem, no matter what the species, then it needs to be addressed.

But Ben Bradshaw blithely tells the Efra committee that he expects the number of cattle slaughtered due to bovine tb to rise 20 percent year on year. We must (he tells us ) wait until the flawed Krebs trials come to their conclusion in maybe 2006 - 2007 - if we're lucky. This regardless of the solid facts already acquired by previous government scientists both here and abroad.

I am afraid that we as keepers of rare and minority cattle breeds do not have the luxory of time, if we want future generations to have the pleasure of and carry on the responsibility for, the wide genetic base which we presently boast in this country. Just one outbreak of bovine tb on one single holding could, I have been told, wipe out 20 percent of the White Park cattle in this country, and the particular herd in question resides within a very vulnerable county.

Other breeds have already lost invaluable family lines, and animals of great quality and potential, turning all their breeder's hard work and dedication over many years of preservation and perseverance to - nothing. These people are left feeling disillusioned and dispirited.

How can this insanity be allowed to carry on?"

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