Mixed reaction as bovine TB stats show fewer cattle killed last year

Latest government figures have shown levels of cattle killed due to bovine TB dropped in 2013, but widespread concern remains.

New stats, released by Defra, have revealed that 32,620 cattle, equating to 90 a day, were killed in 2013 due to bovine TB. They show a drop in incidents from 2012, with 4,815 new herd incidents recorded in 2013 as opposed to 5,153 in 2012. But the industry has reacted with unease at the figures despite the improvement, and some groups have reiterated their opposition to the badger cull.

National Farmers Union (NFU) deputy president Minette Batters said: While it is good news that fewer new herds went down with bTB last year and fewer cattle were slaughtered than in 2012, the figures show the disease remains a massive problem for beef and dairy farmers.

The stats show the incidence rate the proportion of previously TB-free cattle herds found to be newly infected was 4.5% last year. This rate is unacceptably high according to Defra, and has now been at over 4% for a decade.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: Our efforts to control bovine TB have kept outbreaks steady over the past 10 years, but we are still nowhere near an acceptable position. Almost 90 cattle are being slaughtered each day due to bovine TB and we cannot allow that to continue.

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and policy advisor to Care for the Wild, reacted by explaining that culling badgers will not provide a solution.

He said: 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 theyll say, therefore we must kill badgers, but by saying that, they are trying to insinuate that its all badgers fault, when that clearly isnt the case.

TB in cattle has emerged out of poor farm biosecurity, failures in disease testing, and lapses in cattle movement controls. Those are the causes, and dealing with those will be the solution.

In Wales, they achieved a massive 33% reduction in the number of cattle slaughtered again through farming measures alone. In Northern Ireland, TB is falling at a similar rate to the Republic but again, through farming measures alone.

However, Chris Mallon from the National Beef Association told MTJ that current methods must continue to be used to reduce the toll TB is having on UK cattle.

He said: We have to look at the impact on the farmers, their businesses, and the whole production system. TB is spreading and we must support measures being taken, such as movement testing as well as the badger cull. No one relishes it, but if we want to control the spread of TB to the cattle population, we must persevere with the cull.

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