Reflections on an interesting week

THIS week’s confirmation by Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill that DARD is to start testing live badgers for TB is to be welcomed.

The plan is to remove those animals found to be carrying the disease and return those testing negative to the wild, after vaccination.

It has been known for some time that badgers carry, and indeed, transmit, TB to cattle.

So why has there been such a hold up in agreeing a TB eradication strategy that recognises the role of badgers in its transmission?

There is no doubt that the decision taken by the minister strikes a balance between pushing forward a much needed eradication campaign and ensuring that our indigenous badger population is retained.

Of course, the reality is that by removing infected badgers from the countryside, those remaining have the prospect of living longer and healthier lives.

So this is a win: win scenario for both cattle and badgers.

The past week has also seen AFBI Chief Executive Professor Seamus Kennedy highlight the key role his organisation plays as a frontline defence mechanism in the fight against pandemic disease.

Let’s hope our politicians take the time to listen to his views. The agri food sector is worth billions to the local economy.

If, heaven help us, we fall foul of Bluetongue, Foot and Mouth or any one of the other diseases that can lock us out of lucrative export markets, the impact on farming and the jobs it helps create in the processing industry could be catastrophic.

Seamus Kennedy and his team of AFBI scientists play a valuable role at the very heart of the agri-food sectors.

It is crucially important that they have the resources to do their jobs properly. In truth this is a cost worth paying by taxpayers.

Seamus Kennedy refers to it as a form of insurance policy. And he is absolutely correct.

RICHARD HALLERON