It’s a topic that has groups talking from disparate backgrounds; from those concerned for badger welfare to concerned farmers with cattle businesses that are stagnant. No matter what your view is on how it should be tackled, it is clear that TB remains a big problem, particularly in the West of England. According to Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) figures, the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as a result of bovine TB contraction was nearly 35,000 during the period January to November 2012, compared to 31,000 for the same period in the previous year. It should be said that their figures have also shown that although the number of herds affected has risen, the incidence rate is, in general, falling. However, DEFRA stress that not too much should be read into this.
The stark reality is that over the course of 2012, 8500 British farms faced movement restrictions, grossly affecting business prospects. On top of that the crisis has cost the British taxpayer £500 million over the past decade and could rise to £1 billion in the coming decade.
photo available at fwi.co.uk
The proposed badger cull has been a topic that has raised strong views on either side. Nevertheless, pilot culls are due in 2 areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset from June of this year. An informative press release can be found at http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/10/23/badger-cull/ . The RSPCA is against the cull and continues to campaign for an improvement in biosecurity on farms as well as vaccination of both cattle and badgers.
Tighter controls were placed on farms in certain counties on the 1st January of this year to make a concerted effort to reduce the risk of contraction for farms currently unaffected. We are moving towards a system that may be the ‘safest’ and the ‘least risky’ but one that punishes the farmer for something that is mostly out of his or her control. Personally, I will be very interested to see how the badger cull story develops and whether, as a result, we see real positive change to this very difficult issue the British countryside faces.