Cattle TB figures reach new low

Rates of TB in cattle are at their lowest monthly rate for six years, according to figures from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Incidences of bovine TB (bTB) have fallen month on month and this, said the charity Care for the Wild, was good news for cattle and farmers, but “bad news for pro-cullers”.

The figures showed that incidences of bTB in March 2013 were 0.3% down on last year, standing at 3.6% and had seen a drop from 4.7% in December. Figures for the last six years averaged at 5%, Defra information showed.

Care for the Wild CEO Philip Mansbridge said: “This is good news for everyone apart from those who are hell-bent on killing badgers. These reductions can only have come from better farming practices, brought in after the EU forced our government to improve the way things were done. But for whatever reason, it’s proving a success, and the farmers and Defra should be congratulated.”

He claimed that the “war” was being won without a cull on badgers and said it was time to “let common sense prevail over panic”, adding: “Please don’t let anger and stubbornness determine this policy. Let it be cool heads and calm science.”
Meanwhile, the foreword on the figures released by Defra read: “Care needs to be taken not to read too much into short-term figures, especially as this figure includes a number of unclassified incidents. As such, the incidence rates are subject to further revisions as more tests and their results for the period are input.”

Defra also explained that the number of new herd incidents in the period from January to March 2013 was 1,407, compared to 1,534 on the previous year. It said: “The number of tests on officially TB-free herds was 22,878 during January to March 2013, compared to 24,981 during January to March 2012.”

The government body also said certain statistics were affected by seasonal patterns and variations between the frequency of testing. “The animals tested are not a random sample of the whole GB herd. Furthermore, herds are tested more frequently in areas of higher TB incidence than in those of historically low incidence.”


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