Thursday, August 01, 2013

"Farmers don't trust Ministers....

.. to beat TB" was the front page headline in the Western Morning News yesterday.

This was the impression given to the paper's editors attending  the first of a series of meetings to discuss Defra's latest consultation on the way forward out of a mess of their own making. Perhaps that headline should have read "Farmers don't trust Defra.. " but we digress..

 The general impression was not one of support.

Too much emphasis on cattle measures which will cripple the industry within the 'zoned' red area, and 'premature' ahead of the pilot culls which have yet to take place, were just two of the points very forcefully made.

 For a partnership to work, then both 'partners' must agree. And farmers attending these meetings had the impression that Defra was kite flying. Passing all the efficiencies costs they could onto cattle farmers, while hoping that they'd agree to at least some, in exchange for ..... what??

The wildlife part of this so-called package was variously described as 'fluff', 'vague' and ill thought out - if had been thought of at all.

And many remarked, as have we, that they'd been here before. In 2005 and 2010.

 It was suggested by one speaker that  Defra had effectively abdicated its responsibility for an EU strategy (on the eradication of zoonotic tuberculosis) to which it was a signatory. And that as its current policy suggestions would put many cattle farmers out of business, recourse to the European Court of Human Rights might be an option?

It was pretty unanimous that the 25 year time line mentioned, was ridiculously long. And that if wildlife reservoirs were tackled, then incidence of zoonotic tuberculosis in cattle, alpacas, sheep, pigs and domestic pets would drop like a stone and very quickly.

 Also bitterly criticised was the idea of zoning, which also reinforced what an expensive farce preMovement testing (introduced as part of the 2005/6 consultation) really was. A shot in its proverbial foot which Defra seems to have missed?

Bio garbage security measures had been put in place by many, they said. But to no good effect at all.

So what is left? The pilot shooting parties? Tiny in size, uncertain in outcome and unproven in effect. And bugger all else for wildlife control which farmers can get their collective teeth into, read and understand. But stacks more cattle measures, which they have read and fear will come.

They note that there is no statute proposed for Camelids bouncing around the country, and no mention of licenses for badger rescue sanctuaries, happily shifting badgers around to anyone who volunteers an orchard for them to play in.

So what now? Do farmers have to take control of this as they did with BSE, to prevent a complete melt down of our cattle industry, and spin off problems into other mammals too?

 We discussed our Plan B in this posting, and our thumbnail conclusion then was to target the disease itself in the following way:
1. A structured investigation using veterinary expertise, to locate clean setts, and protect them. This can be done at the same time as reactor mapping, already done by AHVLA staff - but unused, and gathering dust. Join the farms up into as big an area as possible.

2. Overlay those maps with locations of badger territories interacting with any confirmed reactor animals.

3. Use of cutting edge validated technology (PCR) to confirm infected groups.

4. Targeting only groups so identified by steps 1 and 2 and confirmed by 3 - underground euthanasia using a material which, in a sub lethal dose will not maim, and possibly carried in a product such as this.
There should be complete removal of groups so identified, and only these, to halt the carnage ripping through our countryside. Fewer badgers would be culled and only infectious ones; clean ones protected and nurtured with more space.

What's not to like?

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