Sunday, June 05, 2005

"Dithering Defra"

...was the description afforded to the government department 'Determined to Eliminate Farming and Rural Activities" otherwise known as Defra, by SW regional director of the NFU, Anthony Gibson. He described bovine Tb as "spreading like wildfire across the region", but commented "Defra is still dithering about stopping it".

A report from Exeter University (to which we have referred before on this blog) to be published this week, emphasised the need for 'urgent action' to tackle the growing problem of bovine tb.

The study found that for the vast majority of farmers who suffered an outbreak of bTb in their herds, the overall cost of the outbreak was greater than the Compulsory Purchase money which they received for individual animals slaughtered. Researchers also discovered the 'human toll' of bTb, with farmers, their families and workers suffering higher levels of stress and anxiety.

The report describes "An important contributory cause (of stress) has been the increase of uncertainty about the future, both in the long term implications for the business, and its personal effect on individuals. All this is compunded by an acute sense of frustration and dismay about the apparent lack of progress in regaining control over a disease that was once thought to have been eliminated as an economic threat to agriculture".

Exeter's researchers emphasised that throughout the study they had worked closely with Reading University who prepared a similar paper last year. Broadly speaking, they found that 80 percent of valuations were 'in line with market prices'. Of the rest some were grossly undervalued and a notable few over valued. The conclusion was that the 80 percent was "As good as it gets" in the field of accurate valuation on this scale. The 'cost' of the stress, damage to the farm's ability to trade, uncertainty about sale of produce is of course, incalculable.

Anthony Gibson continued his criticism, pointing out that the increase in new outbreaks across the wider SW region this spring equated to a 40 percent rise. 630 new breakdowns in the first quarter of the year, compared with 1,735 for the whole of the previous year.

"We are committed to working with the Government to resolve this costly and unnecessary crisis, but it has so far steadfastly refused to tackle the major source of infection in the wildlife population, upon which there are now no controls whatsever - diseased badgers".

Unfortunately little evidence of tuberculosis in the badgers has been available to the general public - so far. But more and more farmers are seeing the result of this 'total protection with no controls and no responsibility' in emaciated, distressed, abscessed badgers moping around in broad daylight.

It's only a matter of time before the public will be seeing this too.

Meanwhile, another day, another report - and more dead cattle.
To describe Defra's inaction as 'Dithering' is too lightweight.

Try paralytic inertia, supine quiescence and arrogant indolence.


Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised that a project part funded by the NFU presents the situation in this way. I seem to recall INDePENDENT scientific advice by Reading University claiming that many dairy and beef farmers (from memory 35%) actually made a profit from being under TB restrictions. Can you provide a link to the Exeter project - I would very much like to read it.

Matthew said...

The project was funded by the SW Regional Development Agency, part of Defra. The NFU offered comments ahead of its publication.

Reading University found that 75 percent of dairy and 65 percent of beef cattle were valued 'within market price'. Of the remainder, some were undervalued and some overvalued (mainly in Wales).. Exeter University's work was peer reviewed by Reading, and followed the same methodology. Exeter came to similar conclusions but we understand the 'within market price' group was higher.

No link yet, the paper will be published later this week. It is our understanding that this paper was available, but subject to an electoral 'blackout' prior to May 5th. On that basis alone it should make interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

As you've said on this site, too many people - if not farmers - are making a good living out of this. I believe you called it a 'Beneficial Crisis'. is showing a quote from Upton Sinclair which describes this situation:
"It is diffcult to get a man to 'understand' something, when his salary depends on his NOT understanding it."

George said...

Certainly not dairy farmers anyway! There is little in the way of subsidy, and how those involved get out of bed at 5am for the tiny income there is from milk I do not know. (It will be interesting to see the new study.)

I am sure almost all of the vets involved in this would rather be doing something more constructive, where they do not get earache and hasslement from the farmers.
I would be nice for all concerned if we had a soloution to this.