The NFU have responded to the announcement of the Bovine TB eradication strategy.
Meurig Raymond, NFU president, said: “Bovine TB remains a huge problem for beef and dairy farmers across the South West, large parts of the Midlands and beyond. Thousands of cattle farmers are fighting a daily battle against the spread of this disease. More than 32,800 cattle were slaughtered because of this disease last year and more than 4,700 herds that had been clear of it were affected by it.”
“We are pleased that the government is pressing ahead with its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB. The NFU believes the strategy – the first comprehensive plan to tackle bovine TB in England – gives us the best chance of controlling and eradicating this devastating disease and it is vital it is implemented in full as quickly as possible.
“Part of this strategy is ensuring that the disease is kept out of the areas of the country that are at a low risk from bovine TB. The launch of the cattle movement control consultation today will be welcomed by farmers in these areas who have been frustrated by the lack of progress on this. We will consult fully with all our members about this before submitting our response.
“Badger culling is an essential part of the government’s 25-year strategy in areas where bovine TB is rife. While we are pleased that culling has been extended beyond Somerset and Gloucestershire we are very disappointed that more areas will not benefit from it this year. This is much slower progress than we wanted to see.
“We know there are many areas where the disease is rife that would benefit from badger culling and where farmers are prepared to play their part in the fight against bovine TB. The government has repeatedly given a clear commitment to tackling the disease in badgers as part of its 25-year strategy. We expect that commitment to tackle this disease to be backed up with further roll out of culling to other areas where bTB is endemic next year and in the coming years. We will continue to press for that as a matter of urgency.
“As this policy is rolled out to more areas in the years to come it is crucial that the model is looked at to ensure it is as simple and effective as possible and less vulnerable to disruption. We hope that the consultation that has been launched today on the licensing criteria will begin the discussion about how this can be achieved.”
Meanwhile, Dr Toni Shephard, head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This is a death knell for more than 2,000 more badgers, the overwhelming majority of which will not have bovine TB (bTB). It’s also a death knell for common sense, as all the current evidence heavily suggests that bTB is predominantly spread between cattle, not from badgers to cattle. This is a stubborn policy which will not help farmers, will cause unrest yet again in rural areas and will waste huge amounts of public money, for absolutely no good reason.
“Even if badgers play some small role in spreading bTB, the perturbation caused by culling will simply lead to an increase in bTB in other areas. But killing predators such as badgers is symptomatic of the simplistic way humans deal with animals at the top of their food chain. We have a history of abusing, tormenting and killing animals like bears, lions, tigers, foxes and badgers. Sometimes it’s done for so-called sport, sometimes there is an attempt at justifying it, such as this cull, but it is fundamentally about getting rid of other predators.
“Luckily, the world is starting to wake up and understand that we don’t have to kill other predators, we can live alongside them. Schemes in other countries involving lions, dingoes, wolves and bears are showing that non-lethal ways of ensuring both people and animals stay safe and benefit from each other’s presence are working. This so-called compassionate conservation is the only way forward in terms of understanding and tackling diseases like bTB, and is the only moral way forward unless we want to wipe out every other living creature on the planet, which unfortunately seems to be the only policy on some people’s agenda.”