NFU President Attacks Government over Bovine TB

UK - The president of the National Farmers' Union, Peter KJendall has hit out at the British government for its stance on handling bovine TB.
calendar icon 4 January 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

In his New Year message Mr Kendall described the challenges facing agriculture in the coming year, in particular the urgent action needed to tackle bovine TB.

He said: “We can be confident that whatever else 2010 brings, farming will remain at the heart of many of the challenges that face governments at home and abroad: feeding a world of nine billion people by 2050, adapting to and mitigating climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

“For my part, I see an industry that is increasingly more confident about its future and optimistic about its fortunes. And it has been heartening to see Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn acknowledge the importance of productive agriculture in unequivocal terms over the past year with his 'I want British agriculture to produce as much food as possible. No ifs. No buts'. I believe that is a genuine wish and I am pleased to see the detailed work Defra has begun on food security in the UK and the resilience and competitiveness of our agriculture and horticulture.

“It is that focus on productive agriculture that makes the Government’s stance on bovine TB all the more unacceptable. Put bluntly, how can the Government stand by and do nothing while up to 40,000 cattle are slaughtered every year because of TB? What a waste; of productive animals, of farmers’ investment in their businesses, of taxpayers’ money.

“It is now 50 years since Christopher Soames, the then Minister of Agriculture, made an Order declaring England and Wales TB-free. Following a 25-year-long campaign against the disease, he declared that he was satisfied that TB in cattle was “for practical purposes non-existent”. The Order is still in force, but the reality now is quite different. We live with the silent spread of an infection which wreaks havoc in cattle and wildlife alike and causes untold stress to the farming families whose herds are affected. Unless the disease is tackled in wildlife, international experience shows that it will never be eradicated.

“The Bovine TB Eradication Group has been developing an eradication plan for England and this has now been approved by the European Commission. It is a start, but the remit given to the group by the Secretary of State has severely restricted its ability to make a firmer recommendation on dealing with the disease reservoir in the badger population. In Wales, meanwhile, the Assembly Government is pushing ahead with its own eradication measures; a countrywide testing programme and a pilot cull of badgers - again, a start. No-one is claiming this will be a quick and easy battle. Experience here and abroad demonstrates that it will take many years of strict measures, substantial investment and sustained action to get to where we need to be.

“Farmers are prepared to play their part. Let 2010 be the year that Government plays its part and puts a genuine eradication plan in place.”

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