Call for new approach

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Upper Bann MP David Simpson has said it is vital that a different approach is taken to dealing with Bovine TB.

He made his comments at this week’s Pedigree Cattle Trust bovine TB conference held in Portadown.

Mr Simpson has said that he will oppose any changes to the compensation paid out for livestock unless there are new steps taken to control the disease.

He commented: “The current system of trying to control the spread of TB in Northern Ireland is not working and it is vital that we change the testing regime for a number of reasons. Every year the cost of trying to control the disease to the Northern Ireland purse is growing and last year cost the Northern Ireland taxpayer over £30 million.

“The second reason is Brexit. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union it is even more important that the health status of Northern Ireland livestock improves.

“Currently I am working in Westminster to ensure that there is no ban placed on the movement of live animals from Northern Ireland post Brexit. I want to see a position where local farmers can continue to move live animals whether that is within the Province, to the other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland and further afield to Europe. As Pedigree Cattle breeders I believe that it is in all of your interests to be able to move both live cattle and cattle genetics globally. Otherwise, the genetic pool and potential of all your work would become very limited. In a post Brexit world I believe that animal health will become more important and it is therefore vitally important that we control the spread of TB.

“Over the last 20 years I have heard many calls to look at taking a different approach in controlling the spread of TB in Northern Ireland. In Westminster, as a member of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs Committee I also see the efforts undertaken by the Government to tackle the problem in other parts of the UK.

“I believe that the recent report which was produced for our Department makes interesting reading and gives us some potential ways in which we can start to take a different approach in controlling the disease. What is very clear from this report are two things. One is that there are no quick-fix solutions to control the disease and the other is that it is going to take time and partnership between government and the industry to reach the goal we all want to see.

“There is no doubt that difficult political decisions have to be taken on the back of the report and my Party want to see local Ministers back in place to make these difficult decisions. However, if these talks fail, it is vital that Ministers from Westminster are put in place and legislation is passed at Westminster to allow us to start to reduce the levels of disease.”

Mr Simpson said he believes action needs to be taken to ensure that we create both a healthy cattle population and a healthy wildlife population.