Friday, November 25, 2005

Bending with Bradshaw

Lead story in the Farmers Guardian today, is the astounding figure of 80 percent of Tb cases are down to spread from cattle to cattle.

This figure was provided to members of the House of Commons a week ago, in response to a Parliamentary question on how the Minister intended to rid the wildlife population of BTb.
It led to an angry response from opposition Agriculture spokesman Owen Paterson MP, who said:

"This demonstrates Mr. Bradshaw's loose grasp of the details of how Tb is spread and his tendency to 'bend' the facts to support his, and the Government's prejudiced view of the problem".

NFU vice chairman, Meurig Raymond also refuted Bradshaw's figures, and asked for clarification of their source. Particularly as official Defra figures from the minister's own department show exactly the opposite.

Only 2 months ago, the Central Science Laboratory published a data which accepts that wildlife (badger) reservoirs can account for up to 85 per cent of bTb spread.

"Preliminary assessment of cattle movement data suggest that between 26 per cent and 85 per cent of cattle herd breakdowns were not caused by cattle moving into the index herd, and thus, this percentage could [only] have been caused by wildlife."

Coming only a few days before Government is due to make a statement on future policy for cattle controls which are expected to include pre movement testing and a flat rate valuation, this stance is not helpful to cattle, badgers or the wider victims of Btb spillover, domestic cats and dogs and of course, human beings.

Industry stakeholder meetings have repeatedly called for a 'package' of measures in the round. Both vets and farmers have stressed to Defra officials that they would only accept the cattle controls if they went simultaneously with action on reservoirs of disease in wildlife. Politically expedient cherry picking was not on the agenda. However, for an upwardly mobile political animal like our Ben, it appears that even evidence from his own department can be 'bent'. And we fully expect his announcement next week will have cattle nailed securely to the floor, with a top compulsory purchase rate of £600 for reactors - sacrificial lambs on the altar of Ben's career expectations.

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