Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bring on the clowns...

Periodically, Defra produce a Departmental Report which sets out PSAs (Public Service Agreements) which are then presented to parliament.
The 2008 report gives an overview of Defra's activities 2007-08 and looks ahead to what they hope to achieve in 2008-09.

The report highlights Defra's target for bTb thus:
A reduction in the spread of Bovine tuberculous (TB) to new parishes to below the incremental trend of 17.5 confirmed new incidents per annum by the end of 2008.

A singularly modest aim, in which they award an overall self assessment described as 'On Course'. But while a great deal of back slapping and self congratulation may take place in the corridors of Noble House, or wherever they hang their hats presently, out here in the sticks things are far from rosy.

On a different part of Defra's labyrinthine website are the figures for Tb reactors tabulated over nine years. And they certainly do not give the impression of being 'on course' for anything at all except total annhilation of the UK cattle industry. Official figures show a staggering increase in cattle slaughtered, especially in new areas.

In 1998 GB recorded 6191 animals culled as reactors, IRs or DCs. But in 2007 that figure had increased to 28,200 - and increase of 355 per cent.

The West region suffered worst losses, with 4339 cattle slaughtered in the year after the moratorium of badger culling, while the 2007 figure had jumped to 16,492. But despite Defra's warm assurances, areas not particularly affected by TB in 1997 showed much bigger increases, with Wales jumping from 1046 cattle slaughtered nine years ago to 7913 last year. And in the Eastern region of the UK, from just 81 cattle slaughtered in 1997, a staggering 1162 per cent increase took that figure to 1022 last year.

And the TB figures for March are not in any way 'on course' for a decrease with GB recording an extra 579 herds under restriction due to a 'Tb incident' in the first three months of the year. Cattle slaughtered jumped by 24.5 per cent, from 7816 to 9732 and that on less herds and less cattle tested.

So 'On Course' we feel is a comfort blanket too many. For sure 1400 staff have had the push, so that's saved on wage bills, but with a disease increase of the magnitude we have outlined and its associated costs, 'on course' depends aspirations, expectations and on high one puts the bar.

And from where we sit, that is barely off the ground.

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