Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Strategy for Doing Nothing

The Shadow Spokesman for Agriculture, Owen Paterson, today condemned the Government's new Strategic Framework for the sustainable control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Great Britain as "a complete travesty".

"This is a transparent strategy to do nothing very slowly in order to get the Government past the last possible date for the general election without dealing with the problem. Simply dumping the cost of the Government’s abdication of responsibility upon farmers is a disgrace.

In addition, the Government is practically advocating cruelty to badgers by admitting that there are welfare benefits to badgers by reducing the level of TB amongst them, but then refusing to intervene.

Notes to editors:

Bovine TB is increasing by 20 per cent every year.

It will cost £2 billion over the next ten years without finding a cure.
The trial culling of badgers has been bedevilled by problems and delays.
The Government has dragged its feet over the development of vaccines for both cattle and badgers, and failed to come to a decision over badger-culling (despite positive results in the Republic of Ireland), whilst the livestock industry continues to suffer.

Chapter 4.8 of the Strategy admits that:

There are arguably potential welfare benefits to badgers and other wildlife of reducing the level of bTB in their populations, though this in itself is not an accepted reason for intervention.”

Conservative Action:

We are determined to do whatever is necessary to create healthy thriving cattle herds living alongside a flourishing wildlife population, including healthy badgers.

We also recognise that there is a reservoir of disease in cattle, badgers and deer, which must be fought with existing tools – we cannot just wait another ten years for a badger or cattle vaccine to be developed. We must also maintain the confidence and co-operation of farmers.

We would aim to reduce Government waste on dealing with this problem and harness resources more efficiently by:

  • using the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act to issue licences for controlled culling in the most affected areas. These decisions should be made locally by regional DEFRA offices in conjunction with local vets;
  • requiring pre-movement testing of animals unless it had been carried out within the previous three months, whilst ensuring that the compensation scheme remains fair;
  • actively promoting the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to diagnose disease in individual animals, whilst continuing research into vaccines.

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