This was the blunt message from Tonio Borg, of the European Commission to Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, MP in a letter published this week. As well as detailing more clamp downs on holdings under restriction, and vaccination of cattle a distant pipedream, the letter reminded Mr. Paterson that:
"In the past four years the Commission has allocated considerable funds to support the UK bTB programmes (EUR 116,3 Mio in total). We therefore expect significant improvements in the epidemiological situation in 2013 that show efficient use of Union funds. This is absolutely necessary in view of a further renewal of the EU financial support to this programme."
The bulk of this European Union cash (or our own money recycled?) has melted away; hoovered up in a 30 per cent increase in testing. This arises from the doubling up of tests as required by the EU, so if cattle were the source, one could have assumed that the bTB problem would have been nailed by now?
Except that like so many other 'good ideas', the continuing testing and slaughter of sentinel cattle (and now sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, bison and deer) is a total and obscene waste of time and money, if a wildlife reservoir is left to fester.
Better men have tried it and failed in the past.
And don't get us started on the cost of badger vaccination. An article in Farmers Guardian cites a spend of £943,000 to vaccinate 1400 badgers. That's £673.57 per jab - if our calculator's battery is fully charged. Forward costings in models proposing badger vaccination average £2500 per sq / km. And please do note that unlike the FERA trials of 2008/ 2010, this crazy paradigm underway in Wales, is aimed at a population of unknown size, badgers of unknown disease status and using a vaccine which holds no license for efficacy. Pretty smart?
Pretty damned expensive, especially as the Welsh Assembly Government confirm that far from reducing the numbers of cattle slaughtered during the months in which these badgers have been jabbed, the numbers of cattle slaughtered in the Principality is heading upwards again. Stephen Jones of NFU Cymru explains:
In 2010, a total of 7,619 animals were slaughtered in Wales due to TB, while the 2011 figure was 8,068 — but up until the end of October 2012, a total of 7,827 animals had been slaughtered and it is almost certain that the 2012 figure will be more than in 2011.And before the Badger Trust launch into print with a headline citing a 'reduction' of dead Welsh cattle for 2012, remember dear readers, that the full year's figures have yet to be published.