Friday, February 25, 2005

Safety in Numbers

It was an impressive sight. Television cameras scanned the signatures of an extensive list of members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and various professors, all standing shoulder to shoulder on the platform of 'wildlife management' and complete lack of confidence in Defra's current Tb non-strategy.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, the signatories detailed concerns, including:
"A wholly inadequate approach taken by your Department (Defra) in controlling the disease"

They reminded the Minister that in 1986, the country recorded only 88 outbreaks, and emphasised "the statutory eradication of tuberculosis has been allowed to go backwards alarmingly, to fast approach the threshold of the 1960's when the hard won 'Tb free' status was achieved."

The signatories pointed that "(The Minister) had already been advised that the Krebs trial set up in 1988, had been hopelessly compromised and that it was also a hugely expensive excercise which was most unlikely to yield any valid results ".

And they reminded her, citing the recently published results of the Irish 4 county trial - which itself mirrored many 'trials' in this country - that "It is thus unacceptable to continue using this 'trial' as an excuse for inaction."

They concluded:"We fully support the field veterinarians of the State Veterinary Service (SVS) who have been prevented from taking any control measures against the primary host of bovine tuberculosis in this country and yet are still expected to control tuberculosis in cattle. Tuberculous badgers suffer a prolonged and wretched death and a quarter of over 5000 badgers tested by MAFF in 1996 - 98, were infected.

For the foregoing reasons, we the undersigned members of the RCVS exhort you to ensure that Defra takes positive steps to properly address the control of tuberculosis in the cattle herds of this country, which of necessity will need to involve the strategic culling of infected badgers".

Over 350 signatories stood shoulder to shoulder and signed this unprecedented expression of 'No Confidence' in the Minister and her Strategy.

And in blue corner - the fragrant Elaine. "What do vets know" she exploded - but looked a tad taken aback as the cameras scrolled down the impressive and comprehensive list of cattle vets who had signed the motion. And then the NFBG 'secret weapon'. A long shot of 40 badgers 'playing' on top of their sett. "Arn't they sweet" she gushed - the implication being "how could anyone kill these?".

Unfortunately cameras were not at the slaughterhouses to record the regularly dispatching up to 200 often heavily pregnant cattle per DAY as reactors to the skin test. Or around to film the dying months of a tubercuous badger - a far cry from the fluffy, anthropomorthic visions of Dr. King and her cohorts in deepest Battersea.

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