Government aims for bTB-free England

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) could disappear from England within 25 years.

A plan set out by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson today will see dramatic action in areas such as disease surveillance, pre- and post-movement cattle testing, as well as the removal of cattle exposed to bTB. There will also be the potential to trace the source of infections, and wildlife controls, such as culling and vaccination, will be used.

Paterson said: “A total of 28,000 otherwise healthy cattle were slaughtered last year because of bovine TB. Today we start a countdown towards an England free from this terrible disease. We must stop bTB spreading into previously unaffected areas while bringing it under control in places where it has taken hold. I have visited Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the US and we must learn from their successful TB eradication programmes.”

He explained that the disease was the most pressing animal health problem in the UK, posing a threat to the UK’s cattle farmers and their livelihoods. He added: “We must all work together to become TB-free within 25 years. The strategy follows up measures already in place and includes comprehensive packages tailored to three distinct risk areas across England.”

Defra is also working with the farming industry to introduce “risk-based” trading to help farmers make informed decisions about the cattle they buy.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “On balance, we think it is an ambitious and comprehensive package to deal with this terrible disease which is devastating the lives of tens of thousands of farmers and their families, and destroying farming businesses, every year.

“The strategy reflects the fact that a full range of cattle and wildlife measures will be needed. It also recognises the importance of a risk-based approach that puts the ability to trade responsibly at the heart of cattle controls to minimise risks of disease transmission while allowing businesses to continue to operate.”

Chairman of the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England Michael Seals added: “The draft strategy is the outcome of collaboration between government and industry with one aim: to achieve bTB-free status for England. Ongoing collaboration and investment by both parties will be essential to develop and deploy the necessary means to achieve this aim.”


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