Friday, September 30, 2016

Passing the buck?

News this week from the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) scheme, and reported in the Vet Times - [link] that Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government are seeking to add zTB (zoonotic Tuberculosis) to their list of non-statutory diseases screened for under the scheme.

"Farmers who take part in the Cattle Health Certification Standards (CHeCS) bTB Risk-Level Certification Programme – available through existing CHeCS cattle health schemes – will also be able to market their animals as being at lower risk of contracting or passing on the disease.

As well as reducing risk of infection, the initiative – which has the backing of Defra and the Welsh Government – could present risk-based trading opportunities for farmers selling cattle from regions with a high risk of the disease, or those wishing to minimise exposure from bought-in animals.
It also offers recognition for efforts to help Government and industry strategies aiming to control infection."
This idea of shafting a statutorily notifiable disease onto a voluntary body dealing with non-statutory cattle diseases was first mentioned by the Chief vet, Nigel Gibbens - [link] in Farmers Guardian earlier this year, where he said:
“Defra is currently working on a new scheme which will allocate a TB risk score to every herd in the country. The idea is to incorporate this into the Cattle Health Certification Standards scheme to give buyers more knowledge about the cattle they are buying.

“The two-tier market is already happening,” added Mr Gibbens.
“Risk-based trading will just make it better informed. Forty per cent of holdings in the HRA have never gone down with TB. If people engage in risk-based trading it allows those farmers to benefit from their good practice, although some people are just very unlucky because the environmental challenge is so high.”

Very unlucky?!
How on earth can Defra lump a disease over which farmers have had no legal control whatsoever, if it trundles in on a wildlife vector (as around 90 per cent of incidents do in the HRA) with diseases like BVD, IBR, Johnnes and Leptospirosis?

And where does Mr. Gibbens get his 'forty per cent of holdings' never had TB from??
Obviously not the same place from which this information came, or he would see that in the South West heartlands of his quaintly labelled 'environmental' zoonotic Tuberculosis, only a handful, some 2- 5 per cent of dairy herds have never had a breakdown since 1990.

With thanks to Bovine TB information - [link] for the AHVLA chart, dated 2013.

We would also point out, with the greatest of respect, of course, that:

It wasn't farmers who trousered £1m in 1997 and stopped all badger culling "to prevent the spread of disease", as licensed under the Protection of Badgers Act: Section 10 (2) a.

It wasn't farmers who then employed the most political of all scientists and allowed him free rein with a £74m so-called trial, which he was proud to say, had a predetermined conclusion.

And it wasn't farmers who oversaw a spread of this 'environmental challenge' as Gibbens so quaintly describes TB in badgers, from 6 or 7 hotspots in 1996 to the unholy mess we see today.

So ‘very unlucky’ doesn’t even begin to cover this complete abdication of responsibility by Government, which has overseen cattle slaughtered as reactors to TB rise from 3,881 in 1996 to 36,000 in 2015.

And that isn’t ‘very unlucky’ at all. It’s Governmental negligence on a grand scale."

So this summer, rather than address the spread of disease through wildlife reservoirs, Defra appear to have put a great deal of effort into passing the proverbial. Having shafted control of the badger population to disparate, widely scattered groups of farmers, they now attempt to foist fictional control of a statutorily Notifiable disease - a Grade 3 zoonotic pathogen - into  the hands of the voluntary Cattle Health schemes.

Putting us all on a scale of 1 to 10 won't solve the problem, or stop its spread through the wildlife.

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