Trust’s concern at deepening TB crisis

European badger (Meles meles), young cub foraging in daylight, England, UK
European badger (Meles meles), young cub foraging in daylight, England, UK

The Pedigree Cattle Trust has warned that the deepening problem with TB is now the greatest crisis in cattle health affecting the Province for many years.

The group said it is growing increasingly concerned as thousands of animals have been destroyed and farming families have suffered huge financial and mental stress.

In a statement the Pedigree Cattle Trust claimed that trust in DAERA is ‘evaporating’ on the issue.

It continued: “The Department offered a Consultation Document, then proceeded to implement part of it before the Consultation Period ended. They have shown neither leadership nor strategic vision. Two area based badger culls are a fig leaf for a failure to remove infected badgers. Veterinary evidence has existed for decades that badgers are a reservoir for infection. The perception is that the Department is willing to destroy infected cattle but not to destroy infected wildlife.

“The Trust seek to protect healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. Farmers are at a loss to understand the Department’s changing policy on interpretation of skin test results and the consequence of this. Some farms have been closed for years and yet others have been prevented from restocking. Reactor animals sometimes remain on farms for weeks and the biosecurity measures in place for their removal are often found wanting,” the Trust continued.

“Some dairy farms face a loss of income for many months. Some pedigree beef farmers are losing an entire year’s income. The Irish Government help their farmers in these situations but our Department does nothing except they seek to reduce any existing support measures.

“The Trust have noted the exchanges between the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Department. No doubt some of the ideas are worthy of investigation but nothing resembling a comprehensive plan for eradication has emerged. Both the taxpayer and the farmer must be protected from the consequences of the folly of the present policy.

“In the meantime every farmer in the country awaits with dread the next test and another three days of worry,” the Trust concluded in its statement.

In response a spokesperson said DAERA is fully committed to the fight against TB and understands the devastating impact of the disease across the farming community.

He added: “In light of the recent rising levels of TB incidence the Department recently deployed a range of additional and enhanced measures to strengthen its bTB Eradication Programme and improve its impact.

“In addition, DAERA recently consulted on its response to the TB Strategic Partnership Groups (TBSPG) Strategy to Eradicate Bovine TB from Northern Ireland. The consultation closed on 5th February. The responses to that consultation are now being analysed. That analysis will help inform advice to any future Minister. As stated in the forward to the consultation, any decisions as a result of the consultation will be made by Ministers and take into account budget availability.

“Furthermore, in January 2018 DAERA commenced two badger sett surveys in two bovine tuberculosis (bTB) problem areas in Northern Ireland. The information gathered as part of this work will be used to help inform potential future wildlife intervention policies, also with the aim of strengthening DAERA’s bTB Eradication Programme. The surveys are taking place in two areas, one around Aghadowey, Co Londonderry, and the other near Omagh.”