Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourth Report


192. The Government must show its commitment to finding a way to ease the grip that cattle TB has upon the country. To do this, its policy must be to reverse in the short term the rising level of incidence of the disease with a long term goal of eradication through the use of vaccines.

193. The Government must continue to fund research into vaccines and the efficacy of biosecurity measures. It must also continue not only to fund the routine testing of cattle, but must examine carefully the benefits of increasing the frequency of testing and the introduction of the parallel use of gamma interferon testing alongside the tuberculin skin test.

194. More frequent and thorough testing will lead in the short term to an increase in the number of cattle reactors that are found and slaughtered.

195. The Government must re-consider the levels of compensation currently paid to farmers and must ensure that it does not shirk its responsibility to pay farmers a fair price for their cattle.

196. The Government cannot countenance the reduction of its spending on the disease at this stage given the advice from the ISG that current cattle controls are not stringent enough. Defra must ensure that a cost benefit analysis (including farmers' costs and benefits) is prepared of the cattle-based measures recommended by the ISG and its agencies to ensure that it is able to plan for the proper levels of expenditure needed to fulfil its cattle TB policy.

197. To match the Government's commitment to fight the disease, it is right that farmers may be asked to increase their own spending on pre- and post-movement testing and on-farm biosecurity measures. We acknowledge that this could mean an additional financial burden for farmers, as well as an unwelcome increase in the time and effort already spent by farmers and vets on the administrative burden demanded by the testing regime. The farming industry is already suffering from the financial and emotional consequences of the steady increase in the number of cattle TB breakdowns, but it must work together with the Government, veterinarians and scientists to monitor the outcome of measures taken to tackle the disease if we are to plug the fundamental gaps in our understanding of how cattle TB is transmitted.

198. We have recommended that the culling of badgers in high risk areas should in principle be licensed under the Protection of Badgers Act to counter the spread of cattle TB provided that the licensee is able to fulfil conditions based on the findings of the ISG Report. The Government must provide a practical framework of guidelines for Natural England as the licensing authority. The farming industry must accept that the Government is unlikely to fund the culling of badgers as a method of tackling the wildlife reservoir. Whilst the farming industry is likely to have to bear the costs of any cull if it chooses to go down that road, farmers must also accept that culling, in accordance with the conditions agreed between the ISG and Sir David King, cannot become the cornerstone of a Government TB policy as it would not be suitable as a control method in all areas. Other cattle-based measures, including vaccines, must be employed and that is where the focus of the Government's spending should be in future.

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