Wednesday, October 14, 2009
A square peg...in a very round hole.
The more we look at responses to our postings and those on other sites, the more we think that although baby-Ben Bradshaw was quite correct in making suspected bTB notifiable in 'any mammalian species', it would have been sensible to put a safety net of statute under such reports.
The minister for (some) Animal's Health made this amendment in 2006, which meant that Defra picked up the tab for postmortems, cultures etc. on any mammal suspected of having bTB. But there the joining of departmental dots gets disjointed, with AHO only having legislature over bTB in 'Bovine species and farmed deer'.
We have mentioned, some cases of domestic pets, and given camelids several mentions, not least because they appear not only to be highly susceptible to bTB, but also highly infectious when they do get the disease. And therein lies a problem. Defra may have post-mortemed a cat, dog, sheep, pig, goat, alpaca or llama - and this is a cursory look, not a full pm, we understand - but there the story ends. A movement restriction may be issued. Or it may not. It may apply to certain groups of animals on the holding, but not to the whole area. Testing may be offered, or it may not; or it may be refused as may entry to the holding. Owners may be given permission to use supplementary tests but if these prove positive, whether or not they are 'validated' or accurate is dismissed out of hand, as positive candidates must be slaughtered before any further testing continues, or restrictions which have been accepted, lifted. Compulsory purchase of these 'other species' is discretionary, and owes more to 'who you know' than a genuine attempt to clear disease. We are aware of some eyewatering amounts paid for camelids, but the ex gratia figure, if owners follow what little protocol applies, is said to be around £750 / head.
In all this is a dog's breakfast of policies which individual veterinary practitioners, AHOs, VI centres, VLA and even (or especially) Health Protection Agencies seem reluctant or unable to coalesce. AHOs particularly, are caught between (B)rock and a hard place trying to shoehorn Bradshaw's 'other mammalian species' into statutory cattle regulations for bTB, while the various bodies charged with screening their human contacts for bTB are still locked into text books, decades out of date, looking for 'unpasteurised milk' from a 'cow with udder lesions'.
None of this non-policy fits, any which way you twist it. Like our square peg: into a round hole, it will not go.