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Call for Action of Bovine TB and Badgers

18 February 2008
National Farmers Union

UK - The British Government came under fire this week from the farming sector over its handling of the spread of bovine tuberculosis across the country.

In his opening address to the National Farmers' Union annual conference in London, NFU President Peter Kendall said that the disease was "rampant and out of control" in some regions of the UK.

Mr Kendall called on the Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, to take urgent action to stop the spread of the disease.

"Science does seem to offer part of the solution in the form of a badger vaccine, possibly available in the next five years," he said.


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"We must break the constant cycle of re-infection from the badger population."
NFU President Peter Kendall

"But unless we take steps in the meantime to attack all sources of this horrible disease, either there will be no cattle industry in large parts of the country or the disease will be so widespread that we will never control it, by any means.

Mr Kendal said the union and other sector of agricultural industry were prepared to work with the government to find a solution to the problem.

But he warned the secretary of state that he should not bow to the political pressures of not taking hard decisions about the possibility of culling badgers.

"I have to say the risks of not taking action are infinitely greater," Mr Kendall told the conference.

"Further prevarication can only mean yet more disease outbreaks, yet more Government expenditure, yet more risk to other wildlife, yet more human and animal suffering and misery and yet more damage to this country's reputation in Europe and around the world over the prevention of animal disease."

He added: "We must break the constant cycle of re-infection from the badger population, which we now know - thanks to last week's Royal; Society report - is responsible for three quarters of all outbreaks of bovine TB in cattle."

He said that the problem had been shelved for too long and a succession of ministers had not been prepared to tackle the problem in their term of office and he called on the secretary of state to take a different stance.

"We all know the phenomenon of the NIMBY. I feel through a succession of ministers and governments, this issue has fallen victim to NIMTOO - Not In My Term Of Office."

Mr Benn said that he understood the problems and hardship faced by farmers over bovine TB and he called for a shared effort from the industry and the government.

"The decision I will take - and I will - it won't be on somebody else's watch, it will be on mine - on what we are going to do together about it will be based on four things: what the science tells us, what impact the proposed measures would have on the disease, how practical is the solution and what is its public acceptability."

However, delegates at the conference were angry that the minister should put public acceptability ahead of the concerns of the industry. In a series of questions, the farmers demanded positive action. The said they had been promised action to eradicate the disease 10 years ago, but they had met prevarication and inaction.

Further Reading

- See other news from the NFU conference in London by clicking here.

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