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Farming matters: Phil Latham - 'Farmers depend on bTB policy success, but have no voice in its governance'

It is that time of year again when there is intense tension between the agricultural community desperate to reduce bovine TB and those that seek to protect badgers.

On the one hand, you have those whose livelihoods depend on a successful bTB reduction strategy.

 

On the other, you have those who, while empathetic of the plight of farmers and their stock, still choose to conserve diseased badgers regardless.

 

For them it is an easy choice. Their leaders tout badger vaccination as an alternative and they wrongly assume bTB spread can be tackled with a ‘cattle only’ approach.

 

They have no evidence to support the deployment of vaccination and nothing to suggest that the benefits from using it are equivalent to the drops in bTB reported in the peer reviewed Downs report.

 

Culling is working and bTB reductions of up to 60 per cent have been observed.


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No perturbation effects have been detectable outside licensed cull zones and science has revealed there are nearly double the number of badgers trotting about with TB than cattle reactors.

 

In fact, it has shown that around Woodchester Park, in the Cotswolds, 10.4 times more TB went from badgers to cattle than cattle to badgers.

 

Mess

 

Protestors are free from the burden of consequences of a failed system and therefore liberated to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.

 

Small animal vets and ecologists are entitled to their views of course, but their consistent misrepresentation of what science has to offer as an explanation for why we are in the mess we are in is, I think, doing a gross disservice to farmers.

 

What population disease management experience do these self-appointed experts have?

 

It might be better if those who presided over the failed cattle only approach kept their counsel and humbly accepted their own part in the control system’s failure. A ‘cattle only’ approach failed for 25 years in a row.

 

For 25 years bTB got demonstrably worse, it spread geographically and resulted in mounting losses for the farming community.

Science has shown there are double the amount of diseased badgers than cattle reactors.
Science has shown there are double the amount of diseased badgers than cattle reactors.

If the bTB strategy objective was a reduction in disease, then who can we hold accountable for the utter dereliction of duty to observe the failure of policy and to react and address its evident failings?

 

No one has lost their job for letting bTB get out of control. The advisers who helped inform Government policy are still carping on social media and in the press, pushing their failed hypotheses.

 

The Godfray report highlighted the success of New Zealand’s shift in governance, bringing stakeholders affected by policy into the room.

 

They dismissed this as an option for the UK because of the value badgers have in our society.

 

Livestock farmers are the only ones whose livelihoods depend on a successful strategy, but we have no voice in the governance of bTB policy.

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