Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Farmers mobilise for nationwide protest

TheWestern Morning News picks up on the Defra strategy for not controlling Bovine TB with the following story:

The strategic framework for improving control of bovine tuberculosis over the next decade will do nothing to dissuade farmers from a new plan of attack.

Following on from the initiative of 350 vets who criticised the handling of the bovine TB crisis by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, farmers are planning a campaign ten times bigger.

The aim is to involve everyone linked with the issue to campaign on it.

Bill Harper, chairman of the South West board of the National Beef Association (NBA), said: "We want to do what the vets did, but increase it tenfold. It's not just farmers we want in this, but everyone in allied industries so that we write 3,500 targeted letters."

Specifically, Mr Harper said the aim of the plan would be to highlight the financial impact of the Government's existing policy for dealing with bovine TB.

"Currently, they spend £80 million a year and rising on this. It is a terrible waste of taxpayers' money if they do not do something about stopping the problem growing," he said. "It is also a waste of the animal health status of our nation, both for wildlife and domestic animals."

Mr Harper said the initiative would be focused in the Westcountry, where the worst of the bovine TB problem is to be found.

"It has to be the South West. We are isolated here and the rest of the country doesn't really understand how bad the problem is," he said.

Mr Harper said the Defra plan did not offer any proposals for dealing with the problem.

"Cattle to cattle transmission accounts for ten per cent, we need to be looking at the other 90 per cent. Farmers will do their bit, but the balance must come from looking at the other 90 per cent," he said.

North Devon farmer Tony Yewdall said the plan to get 3,500 people in the livestock industry involved in a campaign was a "good idea", but he added: "I have written countless letters to Ben Bradshaw to little effect. We need something done now otherwise we are just letting the disease run out of control."

At a national level the NBA yesterday welcomed the Defra document for acknowledging that new strategies had to be introduced to reduce, and then eliminate, bovine TB, but questioned whether the Government's contribution to TB eradication would be "wholehearted".

NBA chief executive Robert Forster said: "We welcome its pledge to form a partnership that will introduce control strategies based on transparent decision making on badger culling as well as the adoption of independent scientific advice to construct evidence based reduction tactics. And we will work with Defra to secure this.

"But we are not ready to endorse Government plans for farmers to bear a greater share of control costs which last year topped £92 million, are expected to hit £110 million by the end of this year, and could increase in further 20 per cent annual jumps thereafter.

"Farmers will only agree to contribute to the cost if they have more say in control strategies and are sure that they are working. They will not sign up to financing ineffective tactical plans if costs continue to rise and they have no confidence that the financial burden they are being asked to shoulder will be short lived."

Paul Griffiths, deputy chairman of the National Farmers Union in Devon, whose farm is currently under TB restrictions, said: "It's still something that is on the drawing board, but if vets can manage to get 350 names together I would hope we can manage 3,500. It is a whole-industry initiative. Everybody is affected by this disease which is growing and growing."

Devon NFU chairman Layland Branfield said the aim was to make Chancellor Gordon Brown aware of the massive financial impact of bovine TB.

The plan to drum up support for thousands of people in the livestock industry was inspired by the high profile actions of more than 300 vets. In their letter to Defra Secretary of State Margaret Beckett, the vets said: "We write in despair over the disastrous bovine tuberculosis situation and the wholly inadequate approach taken by your department in controlling the disease."

They stated that the problem had become so bad that the disease had spread from badgers to other wildlife, including all five types of deer native to Britain and also domestic cats. The vets stated that current research into the disease was unnecessary and expensive as the link between infected badgers and cattle was proved in the 1970s.

The National Federation of Badger Groups gave a cautious welcome to yesterday's Defra publication. But the federation warned that without a clear timetable and targets for implementing control of bovine TB in cattle, the document would have little impact.


Anonymous said...

What a great idea - a letter writing campaign. That will frighten the Government!

Yes, the vets letter received a fair amount of publicity, but while it may have had its desired impact in the media, it clearly had no impact on Government; it was woefully lacking in sensible, practical ideas to get a grip on the disease.

When are we going see the farmers' strategy for controlling this disease ? It is simply not good enough for farmers/vets to say we need to kill badgers. The numerous farming organisations and the vet profession need to get together and draw up a credible action plan. Government's hands are tied on this one - it is up to the farmers to untie them ! You need to tell Government how, where and when you would kill badgers and what the effect would be. You need to demonstrate that it would actually work and that it was cost effective and humane. I have seen nothing from any farming group or the vet professions that comes anywhere near being a credible solution.

Unfortunately, until you lot manage to co-ordiante yourselves into a credible lobbying outfit Government will contine to prograstinate. Love her or loathe her, the 'conservationists' speak with one voice - Elaine King. It works ! Farmers and vets could learn from her successes.

Matthew said...

We agree.
No one knows what effect the RCVS petition had on government. It was an unprecedented move.
The message coming through from most farmers is that they want healthy badgers, but fewer of them and would encourage the use of PCR or similar technology to screen all candidate sources of bTb.
On the cattle side, many of us have been pushing for post movement tests for breeding cattle for years. But it is now part of the NBA (National Beef Association) policy. But it's doubtful if government will bite that particular bullet, because when they do and the tide of bTb does not slow - they have nowhere to go.

Anonymous said...

WOW, the ministers will realy be scared of us all writing letters. We'd all be better off beating ourselves to death with our pencils for all the notice this lot of tossers will take of that idea!


Perhaps the greatest pressure we could bring is to get everyone in the industry to sign a petition to say we will be voting conservative at the next election unless the government starts Badger culling.

Anonymous said...

Well said Dickforth, I think the majority of us will vote con, cant think why the hell this gov should think we would vote them back in, not after all the bungling in the farming com, and the hash up of the Iraq war.What faith we had pre last election has been blown apart by Becket and Bradshaw big time.

Matthew said...

Yup ,and it was the Conservative Shadow Minister, Owen Paterson MP, whose 538 Parliamentary Questions (and answers) started this website for Tb off. At least all the info is in one place.
I do wish Mr. Bradshaw would refesh his memory occasionally.