Sunday, April 03, 2005

Peers Attack Tb 'Strategy'.

Joining the ranks of eminent critics of government's 'Policy for Going Nowhere - Slowly' on bTb are several peers of the Realm. They too have realised that the prevarication has produced no winners. Not cattle, the ecology, the taxpayer and certainly not the badgers. An employment opportunity - maybe.

In a House of Lords debate last week organised by Lady Mar, Defra's Lord Whitty was faced with a barrage of adjectives describing current non-policy on bTB, and they were neither supportive nor complentary.

Lady Mar asked government to reconsider its policy on Tb, in the light of concerns expressed by over 300 members of the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) about the spread of the disease. She pointed that vets in private practises and government vets were 'desperate' to be allowed to play a part in reducing, if not completely eliminating bTb from the environment.

"Government policies prevent them from doing so. Talking shops and inappropriate scientific research do nothing to halt the relentless march of the bacterium through the countryside" said Lady Mar. She continued, "The situation is so serious that action is required now. It is not good enough to tell farmers that they must take measures to ensure biosecurity when some of the measures are exremely expensive, and particularly where badgers are concerned - virtually useless".

Lord Soulsby said that there was sufficent evidence from previous trials including the Irish 4 county and Thornbury, to support a policy which included culling infected badgers.

From Lord Plumb: "It is surely now beyond doubt that badgers infected with bTb are directly involved with the transmission of that terrible disease" .

And Baroness Byford, describing the Krebs trials asked "Why wait another 18 months - or more, when the trials are already flawed? Further delay is not an option. We must come up with an effective policy to deliver a healthy wildlife population living in harmony with an equally healthy cattle population".

And Lady Byford said she was 'flabberghasted' by the wording of the new 'Strategic' document, and asked if government had a strategy.

From behind his ministerial barracades and in the face of this noble onslaught, Lord Whitty admitted that bTb was undoubtedly the UK's biggest animal health problem, which for most farmers was "distressing" and for some " ruinous".

He refuted the view that government had done nothing about it.

Spent shed loads of taxpayers cash - yes.
Allowed an seriously infectious zoonotic disease to become endemic in some of the UK's best loved wildlife - yes.
Ignored the advice of grass roots SVS employees on the best way of avoiding transmission - yes.
Re-interpreted a Law of the land, and decided not to issue badger culling licenses under any circumstances after a £1 million donation - yes.
Ignored the doubling of bTb incidence in the cattle herds in the year following that contempt for parliamentary procedure - yes.
Predicting a 20 percent increase in cattle Tb under 'current government strategies' - yes.
Fulfilling that prediction - with bells. The increase has been 25 percent - absolutely.
Allowing this bacterium to be spread over Britain's countryside, putting at risk anything which comes into contact with it -Yes.
Putting at risk Britain's trading status - Yup, he's achieved that too.

Lord Whitty can be extremely proud of his achievements.

No-one else is.


cornwallbadgers said...

Oh dear, we're still cracking on about the 'Vets for Hunting' letter!

Thirty thousand or so vets - of which about 300 send a letter.

"An employment opportunity - maybe" you comment. TB testing props up many a country vet I think. And the House of Lords - perhaps the ultimate employment opportunity!

At least the number of cattle slaughtered under the TB testing regime was down in 2004 over 2003 according to DEFRA figures. Perhaps this trend will continue, but even if the TB test was perfect and found all infected cattle, there are plenty of herds overdue for testing with potentially tens of thousands of infected cattle within them.

Matthew said...

Don't fall into the numbers trap.
Defra warned everyone else against using any data from 2002 and most of 2003, 'for comparative purposes' as they were still catching up testing after 2001 FMD - and then err, used it themselves.

Taken as a percentage of cattle herds registered, that figure is up, and over 4 years, from 2000 as a base, the year on year figures exceed Defra's predictions of + 20 percent per year.

From Feb 17th. any herd with an overdue test is automatically 'closed'. As we've said no problem with that in principle, providing the staff, tuberculin etc. are there to do the job - which they are not.