We concluded that the Government's current method of controlling cattle TB, that of surveillance, testing and slaughter, was not working effectively.... a severe understatement, we think. EFRAcom quote the government's own figures for disease incidence:
. Our Report considered that cattle TB was one of the most serious animal health problems in Great Britain today, with the number of infected cattle doubling every four and a half years. The consequential growing cost of the disease to the taxpayer and to the farming industry was unsustainable. In "hot spot" areas where the prevalence of the disease was highest, the farming industry had reached a breaking point as the disruption to business in both human and economic terms had become unacceptable. The final straw for many farmers had proved to be the introduction of a new system of valuations for their slaughtered of TB incidence cattle which had proved inequitable in many cases.And on badger culling, in response to confirmed cattle TB outbreaks...
We also recognised that under certain well-defined circumstances it was possible that badger culling could make a contribution towards the reduction in incidence of the disease in hot spot areas. However, we acknowledged that badger culling alone would never provide a universal solution to the problem of cattle TB.... it did at Thornbury.
"The fundamental difference between the Thornbury area and other areas in south west England, where bovine tuberculosis was a problem was the systematic removal of badgers from the Thornbury area. No other species was removed. no other contemporaneous change was identified that could have accounted for the reduction in TB incidence within the area."  24th March 2004. Col. 824W
Reduction? Another understatement. NO cases of TB in cattle were found in the ten years after gassing ceased at Thornbury, and badger numbers had recovered to pre-cull levels.
6. We are extremely disappointed that the response was so tentative in many areas. It also appears to play down the serious nature of this disease, asserting that the problem is a regional one, that the Government's cattle TB policies are working effectively, and that the position is not as "bleak" as our Report suggested. We note that PSA 9 (adopted in 2004) set a target for Defra to reduce the spread of cattle TB to new parishes to below the incremental trend of 17.5 confirmed new incidents per annum by the end of 2008, but not a target for the reduction of TB in existing hot spot areas or overall. The Departmental Annual Report 2008 says that the Department is "on course" for meeting its targets for limiting the spread of cattle TB to areas currently free from the disease. Whilst this might explain the optimism contained in the Government response, the statistics for incidence of cattle TB in 2007 show that the number of herd breakdowns is still increasing.
Now, when a politician says he is 'disappointed', it is politicospeke for bloody frustrated, angry and downright disgusted that committee advice has not been heeded. In this case the adjective 'extremely' has been added, thus giving emphasis to EFRAcom's 'disappointment'.
7. The Government is unwise to have put all its eggs in one basket and to have chosen to focus its energies and funding on the long-term goal of developing cattle and badger vaccines when it is unlikely that a badger vaccine will be available before 2014 and a cattle vaccine before 2015. The response indicates that there is little in the Government's strategy, beyond the current policy of surveillance, testing and slaughter, to tackle the disease in the short-term. This is not good enough — it fails to recognise fully the seriousness of the situation.
Couldn't agree more, but for any disease 'strategy', governement requires the co-operation of its farmers. And that Defra has patently lost.
... Defra's plans for partnership with farmers on the issue of animal disease control appear to be in disarray as the farming industry has walked away from current discussions on responsibility and cost-sharing. This will surely have serious consequences for the credibility of the Government's plans for a Bovine TB Partnership Group to discuss cattle-based measures with the industry.
From vaccines to bio-security, badger culling to the widespread use of gammaIFN, compensation levels and farmer co-operation, it would appear EFRAcom are far from happy with the minister's response. Having described his response variously as 'tentative', 'unwise', 'not good enough' and too reliant on woolly future events, the committee have 'invited' him to appear to give oral evidence to support his non-decisions.
We ask Defra to respond to the points raised in this report. We will also be asking the Secretary of State to give oral evidence on his response to our original Report.While EFRAcom (and others) are making the case for 'cattle measures' we will remind readers of their total failure (and continuing failure) when used in isolation. And when politicians talk of 'reducing the spread' of TB they totally misunderstand that the disease is NOT spread by cattle movements. A point well understood, by Lord Rooker, who had taken the time to study VLA's painstakingly constructed spoligotype maps.