Small decline in bovine TB in 2014 is not acceptable - NFU

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The small decline in the number of new herds affected by bovine TB in 2014 is not good enough and reinforces the need to implement the government’s TB eradication strategy for England in full so the disease can be wiped out as quickly as possible, the NFU has said.

The statistics for 2014 revealed that the number of new herd incidents in Great Britain fell from 4,808 in 2013 to 4,713 last year.

Minette Batters, NFU deputy president, said: “No one can say today’s figures are good news because more than 4,700 herds that had been clear of bTB were affected by it last year. And although the number of cattle slaughtered because of the disease fell slightly in England it rose sharply in Wales.

“These figures are not good news for the thousands of farmers who are still dealing with the consequences of bTB on their farms every day. They are not good news for farmers in those parts of the country where bTB is still spreading. And they are certainly not good enough if we are serious in our aim to see bTB eradicated from England.

“This is simply not acceptable. Today’s figures reemphasise the need for the 25-year TB eradication strategy for England published by the current government last April to be implemented in full and as quickly as possible. It is the first comprehensive plan we’ve had to wipe out this disease and it’s vital that it is put into effect in full if we are going to stand a chance of winning the fight against this terrible disease.

“There are many areas of England where bTB is rife and is having a massive impact on farming family businesses and where the roll out of badger culling would have beneficial effects. For the future health of the countryside we cannot afford to wait and we cannot allow bTB to be used for party political points scoring.

“We remain committed to the control and eradication of bovine TB using all available options - badger vaccination in the areas on the edge of disease spread to help stop the disease spreading further, the use of cattle vaccination when it’s available, and the use of appropriate cattle testing and movement controls that tackle disease while allowing farm businesses to continue to operate viably.

“But if we are ever going to control and eradicate bTB these options have to include controlling the disease in badgers in areas where it is rife. Only by doing this will we achieve what everyone wants – healthy badgers, healthy cattle and a TB free England.”