Minister points the way ahead on bovine TB
AGRICULTURE Minister Michelle O’Neill, has announced plans for actions on TB and wildlife.
Addressing the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee she stated that eradication of bovine TB remains a top priority. The minister acknowledged the adverse impact this disease has on family farm businesses and paid tribute to the positive input of local farmers and private veterinary practitioners in relation to TB testing.
She said: “Whilst TB is a very complex, multi-factorial and challenging disease, I am convinced we can do more on top of our existing programme to reduce levels of TB here.
“Following recent discussions with industry stakeholders and informed by the views of the external experts who attended the International Vaccination Symposium here in May, I have asked my officials to design specific wildlife intervention research.”
The minister has tasked officials to develop an approach that would involve testing live badgers, vaccinating and releasing the test negative badgers and removing the test positive ones.
She said: “This approach will focus on removing diseased badgers and protecting uninfected ones. This balanced approach would avoid killing healthy badgers and could lead in time to a healthier badger population incapable of transmitting TB to cattle. This is a powerful message which I hope will be welcomed by environmentalists as well as by farmers.”
The minister said the aim of this wildlife intervention research would be to test the effectiveness of this approach on the level of TB in badgers and in cattle in the north. This approach has not been tried anywhere else and may offer an advantage in moving forward as part of a comprehensive approach that addresses all the factors involved in TB spread.
She added: “I am also asking my officials to maintain and develop stakeholder engagement with farming, veterinary and environmental representative organisations as the research proposal is developed over coming months.
“Timing of the start of any field work is dependent on the successful completion of the necessary preparatory actions, but I hope it will be as early as possible next year.”
Any proposal for wildlife intervention research will be subject to the necessary business case, the issue of the necessary licences and must comply with the relevant legislation.
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