Tuesday, April 08, 2008

From 669 to 7905 in ten years.

Those figures are for cattle slaughtered in Wales as reactors to the Tb test. A corresponding rise in the expense associated with the disease is reflected by the compulsory purchase figures: up from £1.3 million in 1999/2000 to a staggering £15.2 million in 2007. As the bandwagon of testing, slaughter, transport, postmortems, sampling, culturing samples, paperwork and tracing trundles on, the final tally of the disease to the Welsh Assembly is approaching a figure which is unsustainable. And today, they have called a halt.

The Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, announced a pilot badger cull in the worst affected areas BBC Wales reports.

Commenting that tackling the disease has become extremely contentious, the minister also announced a 'one off' test of all Welsh cattle herds "to assess the extent of infection."

After that, a pilot badger cull would be carried out within 'hard' natural or man made boundaries - as yet undefined.

Commenting on the present situation at a press briefing today, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales Christianne Glossop said:
... bovine TB was out of control and the current policy was not working.
Incidents had increased dramatically over the last decade. Compensation payments to farmers have risen from £1.3m in 1999-2000 to £15.2m in 2007-2008, and last year 7,905 cattle were slaughtered in Wales, up from 669 in 1997.

We have not posted the Tb figures for 2007, but inevitably with a non-policy of an annual cull of sentinel cattle masquerading as 'eradication' of a disease housed comfortably in a wildlife maintenance reservoir, they are up. England had a total of 8.5 percent of its cattle herds under restriction 'due to a Tb incident' at some time during 2007, while Wales posted 10.8 percent.

In both regions, certain areas bore the brunt of the cattle carnage and movement restrictions. The West region of England recorded 18.6 percent of its herds affected with Gloucestershire and Hereford / Worcs. recording 27.5 percent and 26.4 percent respectively. Devon and Cornwall at 23 and 19.5 percent followed.

The Welsh problems are worse in the far West, with Dyfyd having 15.4 percent of its herds affected last year: North Wales recorded 3.7 percent having a restriction due to a Tb incident. Gwent and South Powys are also high and all areas are rising.

One wonders what description Elin Jones and CVO Christianne Glossop would award to the English figures, particularly the area around the river Severn, so spectacularly flooded last summer? Glos and Hereford / Worcs record up to 27 per cent of herds affected. The worst area of Wales is 15.4 percent and considered 'out of control' ... but we digress, our Minister is considering the situation and our CVO has yet to comment.

As well as a blanket sweep of cattle testing across Wales to ascertain the scale of the problem, the Welsh Assembly also announced:
a reform of the compulsory purchase regime for farmers whose infected cows were slaughtered to "encourage herd owners to comply with legal and best practice requirements".

Not sure exactly what that means. Wales is not on tabular valuation, and still operates a valuer system. Time will tell, and devil may be in the detail.

Ms. Jones pointed out that bTb in Wales would cost more than £30m by 2012 if it grew at the present "unsustainable" rate. The coalition deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru in the Welsh Assembly Government has led to a commitment to attempt to eradicate TB in cattle, with £27m being allocated over the next three years for this purpose.

The comments attributed to this announcement were predictable, with NFU Cymru and the Farmers Union of Wales welcoming plans for a proactive approach, while 'conservationists' - of Tb infested wildlife? Sheesh, what's to conserve in an animal riddled with tuberculosis? - and of course the Badger Trust, threw teddies out of their respective prams, describing their chosen species as 'victims of modern intensive farming'.

More on this story from The Times
Critics argue that culling trials have shown that the approach simply prompts badgers to move to new areas, spreading the disease. The RSPCA also condemned the decision and said it flew in the face of sound scientific judgment. Rob Atkinson, its head of wildlife science, said: “We are not a bunch of badger-huggers. Our opposition to a badger cull is based on solid science, not sentiment.”

That would be the 'solid science' which led to the RSPCA being censured by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2006 and the Charity Commission in 2007 for publishing misleading information its Back Off Badgers campaign? And certainly the RBCT Badger Dispersal Exercise showed us all how NOT to deal with infected badger communities. Eight nights hit-and-run visits using cage traps, repeated very occasionally, if at all, was the sole reason for the predictable chaos and the spread of disease. The Times article continues with the view of the Welsh CVO:
But Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, who announced the decision with Elin Jones, Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, said that “doing nothing was not an option. We know there’s a link between infection in cattle and infection in badgers. It’s true in Great Britain and it’s true in Ireland,” she said. “The aim is healthy cattle, healthy badgers and healthy people.”

Amen to that.

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