Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bradshaw Treads Water - A Minister for 'Doing Nothing'?

Defra sent all registered cattle farms a booklet on bovine Tb this week.

One such' cattle' farm has had no cattle since 1999, but we digress.
Inside the package was a shiny booklet 'Tb in cattle', and a glossy coloured map of Great Britain. Compare and contrast with the same map in 1986, 1996 and currently, and you will see why we have entitled this post 'A Minister for Doing Nothing'.

"New measures" (the booklet informs us) "were first outlined during public consultation meetings in February 2004 and regional Stakeholder meetings were held to discuss".

We've 'discussed' stakeholder meetings, forums and quangos several times on this blog, and the Tb excercise has proved to be no different. Defra tell us what they want to do, hold a few meetings to ensure we've been 'consulted', and then - do it.

At those meetings Defra were 'informed' (politely of course) that a one sided policy leaving infected wildlife was a gross waste of time and taxpayers money, and any tighter restrictions on cattle had to go hand in hand with wildlife reservoir control. Did they listen? No.

But Bradshaw employed our Dan, 'Mr. Hack-it', the Compensation Accountant to make sure that the taxpayer paid less for his pound of (cow) flesh. And now he's nailed the cattle more firmly to the floor, by a series of Tb testing changes.
But will it halt the spread of bovineTb? No.

The measures are:
* A 'zero tolerance' policy for overdue tests.
* National review of testing intervals country wide.
* Spacing of tests more evenly within testing intervals.
* A new approach(!!) in England and Wales to prevent the development of hotspots. (We love this one)
* Amended testing schedule for new / reformed herds.

And the wildlife maintenance reservoir?
Nothing. Not a sausage, in fact the only mention of it is in the forward to the booklet.

"Bovine Tb is a serious cattle disease which can also affect humans, pets and some wildlife".

With that we would agree, in fact we'd go much further.
We would say 'will affect, has affected and will continue to spread due to endemic reservoirs of disease unchecked by Defra in some wildlife. The most successful host of the disease in GB's wildlife is the badger".

So in practise what will these 'new' measures achieve?

Zero tolerance on overdue tests, we would not argue with, but farmers will still trade stock right up to the day that test is due, and those stock will travel. A further gem from the leaflet explains that Defra will test areas where disease is established more regularly, and those without disease ' less often'.

So is what they are saying here "If we don't test your cattle for Tb, you haven't got it " ??

We thought this non-strategy was to prevent cattle establishing Tb in Defra's (assumed) 'clean' areas. But if the monitoring (Testing) is to be less frequent in those areas, the potential for an explosion when it is discovered is much greater. Remember the Furness Peninsula?

A National review is historic.
No disease situation can be assessed correctly unless all areas are tested within a short space of time to confirm disease status.

We would not argue with more frequent testing on new, or reformed herds.

Prevention of hotspots.
This one we love. Excatly how a 'hotspot' can be prevented without action on the wildlife reservoir feeding it is not explained. We would agree with throwing a 'clean ring' cordon around surrounding farms and testing cattle to establish the cause of the breakdown. That is what used to happen.

But for those of us who have been nailed to floor by movement restrictions for several years, testing cattle every 60 days, and slaughtering reactors as they showed exposure to m.bovis, this booklet is a hollow sham. The exposure from badgers which our Minister for Doing Nothing, repeatedly warns us against touching or controlling, while his henchmen steadfastly refuse to collect dead ones for postmortem from farmland, is not even mentioned.

As readers will have read on this site, UK is now the pole position for incidence of Tb in cattle on the world stage. Top of the heap, the worst. And our trading status is once again at risk, with our EU 'partners' having given themselves the opportunity to protect Community trade with an OIE veterinary certificate which gives them the power to isolate any member state or region, that is causing problems.(see Russia - on this site)

Scotland has reproduced Defra's map in glorious technicolour, and advised farmers not to purchase stock from South West England or Wales. That map is a disgrace to everyone involved in Tb. It should be engraved on Bradshaw's heart - if he had one.

This non-strategy is classic spin of a Minister pretending to be 'pro-active' while doing - absolutely nothing.
At best it could be described as misleading - but we have heard the word 'lies'.

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