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Bovine TB sees 50 cattle slaughtered in West Country every day

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 12, 2014

Bovine TB sees 50 cattle slaughtered in West Country every day

Cattle in the West of England are bearing the brunt of bovine TB, with more than 50 killed each day, more than half the UK total

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More than 50 cattle were slaughtered every day in the West of England in 2013 after testing positive for TB, more than half the total for the UK.

And while agreeing that the figures are still too high, wildlife campaigners say that the year-on-year drop the figures represent is evidence that the badger culls trialled in Somerset and Gloucestershire last year are unnecessary.

There were 18,306 animals killed in the Western region in 2013, it was revealed yesterday, as December figures completed the year’s picture. This represents a fall from 2012 (20,701) and 2013 (19,358). There has been an average fall of 15 per cent since 2008.

Across England, slaughters fell by 6 per cent on 2012 to 32,620, with the number of outbreaks falling 3 per cent. But figures for Wales showed a huge fall of more than a third in slaughters and 22 per cent in new herd incidents. The GB average is 13.6 per cent.

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These figures will apply more pressure on the Government on the eve of a Commons debate on badger culling, a policy Defra which said in 2011 would achieve a reduction of 16 per cent in nine years.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust said: “The badger cull will not have had any impact on these numbers – these reductions reflect the more stringent measures which were forced upon the government and the farming industry by the European Commission in January 2013.”

Last month, Welsh natural resources minister Alun Davies welcomed similar figures, saying they suggested the country's approach was working.

The proportion of TB-free herds to have the status withdrawn has also fallen, to 4.5 per cent, the lowest rate since 2006.

Defra does warn about the reliability “short-term” statistics that may yet be revised. But setting out its TB eradication policy in 2011, the department cited a rise from 4.8 per cent in 2009 to 4.9 per cent in 2010, which it said suggested “that the disease situation may be worsening again.”

It continued: “We will need to await data from future months to see if this upward trend continues, but this suggests that the improvement in the disease situation that we saw during 2009 is not set to continue using our current control measures.”

Announcing yesterday’s figures, Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Our efforts to control bovine TB have kept outbreaks steady over the last ten years, but we are still nowhere near an acceptable position.

“Today’s figures are another reminder that we need to do all in our power to bear down on a disease that is costing taxpayers millions each year and taking a terrible economic and emotional toll on our farmers.”

Mr Dyer added: “Defra will claim the figures are too high, and that TB is costing the country a lot of money, both of which are true. Then they’ll say ‘therefore we must kill badgers’, but by saying that, they are trying to insinuate that it’s all badgers’ fault, when that clearly isn’t the case.”

Last month, Welsh natural resources minister Alun Davies welcomed similar figures, saying they suggested the country's approach was working.

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  • Clued-Up  |  March 12 2014, 5:46PM

    If you examine the comparative successes of the English and Welsh cattle bTB eradication programmes, it's no contest ... the Welsh win brilliantly and the English trail in a long way behind. It's almost certainly the cattle testing and movement controls that make the difference. In Wales, cattle are routinely tested every 6 months, meaning that unidentified bTB infected animals are much less likely to be able to infect their herd mates before being detected at the next test. In England, cattle are routinely tested only once a year in the bTB hotspot areas - and only once in 4 years if they're in a low infection area. In Wales, cattle have to be tested before they're shown at agricultural shows or put into the market; I think these precautions aren't followed in England. The Welsh system requires farmers to test their cattle before they move them out of area to land they own somewhere else; the English system ignores this infection risk. The Welsh provide on-farm advisory and support services to help their farmers improve their bio-controls; in England that support is only available to farmers who can pay for it. The Welsh vaccinate their badgers as well ... but I think the dramatic reduction in Welsh bTB disease rates is down to Welsh cattle controls which are far more effective than the English ones. If we're serious about getting rid of bTB then we have to follow the Welsh example.

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