"Defra currently faces budgetary pressures. However, simply saying that more money cannot be found for spending on measures to control cattle Tb is not a solution. The measures we have recommended will require an increase in financial support from Defra. However, this is necessary if governemnt wants to avoid ever increasing expenditure forecast in future years, which could total £1 billion between now and 2013.".
A VLA (Veterinary Laboratories Agency) forecast quoted in the report, suggests 9 million cattle tests may be carried out by 2010 (just two years hence) with the number of reactor animals rising to 66,000.
The ISG's final report into its ten year
For those who may have missed the ISG proposals, we list them again - as does the EFRA report.
* High and low risk zones could be created and the movement of cattle from high risk to low risk areas should be prohibited. The ISG acknowledged that this would protect low risk areas, but could exacebate the incidence of disease in high risk areas.
* As a variation on the above, individual farms could be categorised as high or low risk (eg. disease free for three or four years and at low risk of a cattle breakdown) and movement controlled between the two categories. Thus, disease free farms in high risk areas (i.e Tb hotspots) would not be prevented from trading with farms in low risk areas.
* Pre-movement testing in high risk areas, or areas with a recent history of cattle TB, should involve the combined use of tuberculin skin testing and the gamma interferon test.
* Post movement testing should be introduced in some situations using both the tuberculin test and gamma interferon test.
* Additional measures such as the introduction of whole herd slaughter should be considered for multiple reactor herds in low risk areas.
* Surveillance testing in low risk areas should be more frequent than it is is now, with testing intervals at a maximum of three years, or even annually should no additional movement controls be introduced.
* Annual testing applied to all herds in high risk areas.
* In high risk areas, gamma interferon testing should be used in herds with one or two reactors and no previous history of breakdowns, in order to identify all infected cattle.
Efra's report concludes from that shopping list that "current cattle-based measures are strengthened if we are to stop the spread of cattle TB into low risk areas." They go on to recommend post movement testing to alleviate this - a point with which we agree. However it may be timely to point out (again) that cattle measures such as suggested by the ISG, although a seductively and persuasively easy solution, have been tried before and simply do not work.
Neither is the concept of cattle doing handstands around the country and spreading bTb, borne out by the painstaking data analysis carried out at VLA, of 30 years of spoligotyping m.bovis type strains from badgers and cattle.
So where exactly is Defra being advised to 'spend' taxpayer's cash? More gamma interferon. Why? Until infected badgers are culled there is no place for the blood test. When they have been culled there will be no need for the blood test. Efra's report quite rightly reminds Government of its responsibilities, while arguing for the greater use of a test with low specificity, of marginally less latency than the intradermal skin test and a disputed cut off point. "The wider use of gamma interferon testing is likely to increase the number of cattle slaughtered as previously undetected infected cattle are identified. We acknowledge that this will be challenging for the farming industry and for Defra."
Bourne promised a 15 percent reduction in cattle Tb with these measures - which included gamma interferon. With increased cattle slaughterings referred to by the Efra report, he may achieve his prediction - with a 15 percent reduction in cattle.
"Defra have no policy", said "Lord Rooker to the Efra committee in his last session of giving evidence, "and have spent £1 billion to no good effect in the last decade".
It would be most careless of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to repeat that most expensive mistake again.