TB is crippling NI agriculture, claims Dodds

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DUP MEP Diane Dodds has encouraged those directly affected by Bovine TB to respond to a new consultation which aims to address the issue.

Earlier this week Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill urged the public to have its say on plans to eradicate Bovine TB.

The minister established the TB Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) last autumn and tasked it with developing a strategy and action plan to reduce both the levels of TB in cattle, and the cost of the TB eradication programme. In December, the TBSPG published a consultation seeking the views from all parties on this programme. The consultation will end on 23 January 2015 and responses received will assist the TBSPG during this, their information and evidence gathering phase.

Speaking earlier this week the Minister O’Neill said: “The TBSPG has been tasked with the responsibility of developing a long-term strategy and action plan for the eradication of TB in cattle in the north. I would encourage all interested parties with views on TB eradication to respond to the TBSPG consultation by the 23 January.”

She added: “The TBSPG has been appointed to work in the wider public interest, and with this in mind it is important that all interested parties engage in this process.”

The TBSPG is also considering the ongoing TB eradication programme, the possibility of improved detection of TB in cattle, enhanced biosecurity measures, reduced disease risks throughout the cattle industry, compensation, and to find cost-effective ways to deal with the wildlife factor.

MEP Diane Dodds said that as part of the drive to help reduce the level of Bovine TB in cattle the TB Strategic Partnership Group (TBSPG) has launched a consultation seeking views on the future of the Northern Ireland TB eradication programme.

“We are all aware of the practical pressures Bovine TB puts on farmers due to herd restrictions, loss of income and the bloodlines which have taken years to perfect.

“There has been little progress made in significantly reducing TB over the past few years and the DARD Minister has been belligerent in her attempts to do so.

“This has been evident by her stalling tactics, with the use of more studies, and in her refusal to take hard choices to resolve the situation. Let us hope that the TBSPG will put forward a radical new approach to solving the issue,” she added.

“The cost to the taxpayer must also be considered in this discussion, given that in 2010-11 TB cost almost £23 million, and in the 15 years up to March 2011 some £317 million was spent on the Bovine TB programme. The current policy is not working and given the stretch on public money, we must think outside the box. While biosecurity and movement controls have been strengthened, little has yet been carried out to deal with the reservoir of disease in wildlife.

“Given all the issues around Bovine Tuberculosis and the effect it has on farmers mentally and financially – in addition to the suffering caused to cattle and wildlife - I would encourage everyone to respond to this public consultation. In particular, I would encourage health and farming support organisations to respond, highlighting the impact TB can have on a farmer and their family.

“The consultation will end on the 23rd January 2015 and can be sent to TB Strategic Partnership, PO Box 2141, Belfast, BT4 9EB.”