After Hilary Benn's "well it might work, but then again it might not" prevarication over badger culling, the NFU ran a series of adverts in the National and regional press last summer featuring an image of a dead cow. The headline read: "She needed indecision on TB like she needed a hole in the head”. Further text at the bottom of the page explained:
"In 2007, 28,000 cattle were lost to TB. This year that figure will be closer to 40,000 unless action is taken to eradicate TB from infected badgers. It's time to take the politics out of animal disease control. Please support our call for positive action on bovine TB, including the appointment of a separate animal health body that makes decisions based on scientific facts, not sentimentality.
The advert drew complaints from Viva, the Badger Trust and members of the public who claimed it was misleading. Today the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) delivered its decision. Four of the five complaints against the advert have not been upheld, with one complaint upheld.
The complaint that has been upheld relates to a challenge that our advert implied that badgers were solely responsible for the spread of Bovine TB.
So, the ASA were happy with quoted 28,000 dead cattle, a figure spiralling to almost 40,000 in 2008? Yup, they were.
"Time to take the politics out of animal disease control"? Can't argue with that. They shouldn't have been there in the first place.
Separate 'animal health' body - rather than one which puts one animal's lack of health above all others? Fine with us.
So, where does the advert say the almost 40,000 cattle will be dead because of badgers? No-where that we can see, but the advert does say that 40,000 cattle will be dead if action isn't taken to eradicate the disease from infected badgers.
And no action was taken. The moratorium remains, and the figure for slaughtered cattle will be approximately 38,000 in 2008. So the point is?
We are pleased to post the NFU response to the ASA decision.
NFU RESPONSE FOR PRESS:
“Clearly we are disappointed that the ASA has upheld this complaint, because, the NFU has never said, nor does it believe, that badgers are solely responsible for the spread of bovine TB. However, it is abundantly clear that there is a reservoir of TB in badgers and that unless the level of infection in badgers is addressed we will continue to see increases in the numbers of new cases of bovine TB and continued re-infection of existing TB affected herds.
Defra's own prediction is incidence of TB in cattle doubling every four and a half years, in the absence of any 'new dynmanics' - by which they mean culling infectious badgers. The press release continues:
“We acknowledge that TB can be spread by other means such as cattle movements. However, we are convinced that if we are to eradicate bovine TB then we have to tackle all sources of infection. Regrettably, we are currently trying to control TB with at least one arm tied behind our back and the result is that we are seeing increases in new incidences of bovine TB and the government is likely to have slaughtered close to 40,000 cattle last year, 12,000 more than the previous year because of TB.
“Our advert was intended to highlight the tragic impact that TB is having on our cattle industry and the farmers and their families that have to live with TB day in, day out whilst the Government stands by and refuses to tackle one of the major sources of the infection. The NFU will not give up its fight to see TB eradicated and unlike the government we will not give up on thousands of farmers and their families that lives and businesses are being devastated by TB.”
Press & PR Officer
National Farmers' Union
Warwickshire, CV8 2TZ