Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said any charge on farmers for TB tests would be very hard to swallow in light of figures which show startling TB incidences rises.
Mr Irwin said: “TB incidence levels in livestock are much higher here in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland and continue to rise. This is an issue that causes great concern and hardship amongst the local farming community.
“The consultation opened on the issue of TB is concerning in some respects as I see a lack of emphasis on the big issue of wildlife control, yet the Department float the idea that farmers should pay for one herd test per year.
“Measures to date have had no positive impact on driving down TB levels and farmers are angry about this fact and therefore without a radical rethink by the Department this worrying trend will only continue,” Mr Irwin added.
“Other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland are dealing more directly with the wildlife issue and have seen the benefits of this approach through notable decreases in disease incidences. I know that it will not sit easily with farmers to be asked to cover the cost of herd testing when they see no real and tangible efforts to control wildlife carriers by DAERA.
“It is important that the Department avoids any measures that have the effect of increasing the pressure on our farming industry. Farmers are already taking disease control responsibilities seriously on their farms and as I have said many times before the Department must learn from other regions of the UK and the ROI and take robust measures to reduce TB in Northern Ireland. Before the Department expects farmers to take on any increased burden they must first of all start to control the disease within the wildlife population.”
Meanwhile, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed news of the public consultation.
Seamus‘O Kane, Senior Vice President, BVA Northern Ireland Branch, said: “We welcome this consultation and the opportunity to contribute views on the latest strategy to eradicate bTB in Northern Ireland. BVA supports a comprehensive strategy that uses every available tool that we have in the toolkit to achieve the long-term goal of TB eradication. The consultation is essential to the successful development and ultimate implementation of a new bTB eradication strategy, and we hope BVA members and BVA specialist divisions will support our work in order to make their views known in this important process.”
The consultation will seek views from all interested parties and will run for a nine-week period from 30 November 2017 to 1 February 2018. BVA will be approaching members for their views in coming weeks.