Double Standards at DEFRA

The lead news story in the 20th June 2008 edition of the Farmers Weekly, reports that DEFRA advice to veterinary officials & their clients is at odds with their official line, showing that the government is well aware that badgers play a major role in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (TB).

While animal activists have disputed the badgers’ role in the transmission of TB & DEFRA has always insisted that the main way to tackle the disease is through the testing and culling of cattle, with the bean-eating Mr Benn who is in charge of livestock – as part of his brief as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, (and who in their right mind put a man that has not eaten meat or fish for 36 years & whose constituency Leeds Central, is an inner-city constituency, in charge of the country’s livestock farming?) going as far as to say he is “not convinced by the science” for a cull. Yet of the 26 points made in the DEFRA produced Bovine TB Husbandry Best Practice Guide 23 focus directly on the risk of infection spread presented by badgers, just 2 points, at the end, are devoted to cattle to cattle transmission and there is only a single point on pre-movement testing. This completely undermines Hilary Benn’s dithering on the thorny issue of badger culling!

Jonathan Riley – News Editor of Farmers Weekly commented:

“… this government seems frozen into inaction by the strident claims of the wildlife lobby, a lobby that would rather see infected badgers struggle to live, while thousands dairy animals are slaughtered , under a policy that is so clearly failing to work.”

The content leaves no doubt that DEFRA knows how big a problem badger to cattle transmission is. West Country farmer Jilly Greed whose herd has suffered a recent TB breakdown, said:

“Behind the scenes DEFRA obviously knows how big a problem badgers represent. Why don’t they come out and say it?
The science says cattle-to-cattle transmission accounts for just 1-2% of herd breakdowns. The remaining 98-99% of bovine TB is brought in from other sources. In other words it is brought in by badgers and this advice shows DEFRA knows that.”

Three of the warnings from DEFRA are:

  • Keep Badgers away from feed – badgers infected with TB can contaminate feed.
  • Make your farmyard less attractive to badgers – badgers are likely to be attracted to accessible feed and may spread disease to cattle.
  • Where possible keep cattle away from high risk areas such as badger latrines and active setts.

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