I wrote the last post to illustrate the sense of hopelessness the majority of farmers feel faced with the dilemma of cattle TB.
I sense, also, there’s a common feeling that farmers take delight in killing badgers. This is not so, it is wildly off the mark. The truth is that farmers feel a growing sense of helplessness and were hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel when the Independent Scientific Group’s (ISG) report was published. Now all they have on offer is yet further increases in cattle movement restrictions and more severe culling regimes for cattle…hardly a solution. The fraught headlines following the publication of the ISG Report last week reflected farmers’ huge sense of frustration. We are people who like to get on and take action; practical folk used to being able to solve problems ourselves through direct action.
The ISG’s report summarises the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT). These show that small scale culling can increase levels of TB in cattle. The report also says that proactive culling as practiced in the RBCT can bring benefits, but only if culling is sustained over a number of years and co-ordinated. The ISG are not convinced that it would be practical or economical to deliver a cull in this way, leading them to conclude that badger culling could not contribute meaningfully to the control of bovine TB in Great Britain.
Last year, in Great Britain, approximately 23,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of TB and 6,856 herds were under movement restrictions. And yet the disease still spreads.
‘It is indisputable that bovine TB remains a serious problem for the farming industry with disease prevalence increasing sharply over the last decade. The cost to the taxpayer was around £80 million in 2006/07, and farmers whose herds are affected by disease also face significant financial and personal costs.’ So wrote David Miliband in his ministerial statement following the report’s publication.
Yes, dead right it’s a serious problem, a damn serious one. And it’s not just about money. It’s about the huge psychological effect it’s having on us, the farmers, and our farming communities.
Vaccination is the only way forward, as I see it. For however much we restrict movements, cull cattle or tackle the TB reservoir in wild animals, none of this will amount to much until we vaccinate. So my call is to government to increase the money and resources available to develop a workable vaccination programme as soon as possible. And, please, don’t wait until the ‘perfect’ vaccine is found – by then, it may be too late.
Dare I believe that government will heed this plea and give us back our hope?