No ‘acceptable’ TB level, says Irwin

European badger (Meles meles), young cub foraging in daylight, England, UK
European badger (Meles meles), young cub foraging in daylight, England, UK
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Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Westminster candidate William Irwin MLA says he remains “concerned” by TB incidence levels in Northern Ireland and says eradication must be the ultimate focus.

Mr Irwin made reference to anti-TB programmes operating elsewhere in the UK and referred to the Republic of Ireland where TB levels are 5% lower than in Northern Ireland. Mr Irwin has called for an increased focus on TB eradication in Northern Ireland as levels here are rising.

He stated: “Bovine TB remains a major issue for our agriculture industry and since my election to the Northern Assembly ten years ago, it has been consistently a topic of considerable interest and debate at Stormont as to why levels are so high in Northern Ireland and what can be done to effectively reduce and eradicate the disease.

“When we see TB levels 5% lower in Republic of Ireland and other regions of the UK taking much more direct action against TB, it does beg the question why in Northern Ireland levels of TB continue to rise,” he added.

“It does appear that Departmentally perhaps there is an “acceptable” level of disease incidence, one would think the fact TB is at a 12 year high in Northern Ireland should prompt the Department in to much more robust action against the disease, but I do not detect any urgency from DAERA in the fight against this disease and that is a concern.

“Wildlife carriers in my opinion need to be tackled in a much more intensive way and TVR, whilst useful in gaining a technical picture of the disease on the ground, is proving much too slow a process and isn’t clearly having any impact on incidence rates. Bovine TB costs the tax payer heavily and it has a great impact on the farmer and I am again calling for a much more direct response from the Department against this disease,” he added.

Meanwhile, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed the report from the Welsh Government showing a 35% reduction in new incidence of TB in Wales’ Intensive Action Area (IAA).

Since its establishment in 2010, the IAA has applied increased measures to tackle all sources of bovine TB.