Friday, February 25, 2005

The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph also runs with the vet story today, under the headline: "Despairing' vets call for badger cull to tackle TB"

Written by environment editor Charles Clover, the story is as follows:

More than 350 vets and scientists have written "in despair" to Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, calling for a cull of badgers in areas where cattle herds have been hit by tuberculosis.

The vets say that the total number of outbreaks last year could reach 3,000, a figure they describe as "disastrous", and they criticised the Government's "wholly inadequate" approach to controlling the disease.

Mrs Beckett is expected to outline a new strategy for containing bovine TB next week but the vets, who are backed by the Conservative agriculture spokesman, Owen Paterson, believe this will fall short of culling badgers.

Bovine TB currently costs the Treasury £100 million a year in compensation for the 20,000 cows that have to be slaughtered. The Government now estimates the cost of containing the disease, which has spread to cats and deer, will be £2 billion a year over the coming decade.

An independent scientific group recently reported to Mrs Beckett that a vaccine to control TB in cattle was still a "distant prospect" and said that the value of culling badgers had still to be determined in Government trials, which are likely to go on until 2006.

The trials were set up to investigate whether badgers actively increased the transmission of bovine TB or whether the spread is caused by transmission from cattle to cattle as the animal welfare lobby maintains.

The vets, led by Dr John Gallagher, a retired member of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, said that it is unacceptable to go on using "hopelessly compromised" scientific trials designed by Prof Sir John Krebs, now head of the Food Standards Agency, as "an excuse for inaction".

The vets warned that the "dire" extent of the disease meant that the country's TB-free status was likely to be lost in the near future.
Here, you can see Beckett's stance - as long as she can put off doing anything until after the election, that will be fine. Perhaps we should call her policy: EBA - "Everything But Action".

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