For too long, and for far too many farmers, bovine TB (bTB) has ravaged the UK cattle industry and is the disease, far more than Covid-19, which strikes at the heart of rural communities across the UK.
This week’s Farmers Guardian front page is so shocking that it should lead politicians and policymakers to hang their heads in shame over how the bTB debacle has been handled in England and Wales over several decades.
It is a damning indictment of the fact that bTB is a disease which not only has huge consequences for infected cattle and badgers, but is one that piles unspeakable emotional hardship, not to mention financial, upon those farmers whose herds are devastated by it.
The failure to coherently and consistently tackle bTB should be outed as a national disgrace, with George Eustice’s announcement in March that the Government would move towards a vaccination strategy in England longer term no doubt causing many farmers to despair.
The apparent toll of human suffering in Derbyshire, where it is said several farmers took their own lives partly as a result of the cull U-turn in that county, should serve as a reminder to those in power that to allegedly influence pet causes for their own sake is, literally, playing with people’s lives.
But bTB has long been a toxic issue for the industry, not helped by the fact that the main vector of the disease, the badger, is an animal seemingly lodged in parts of the national psyche, thus preventing rational thinking when it comes to culling the animal.
It is a disease which causes those at the upper echelons of the veterinary and farming policy worlds to clash badly, but there is still no unified strategy to grapple with the disease, as the disparity between culling in England and vaccination in Wales highlights.
Not only is it a disease which at any time can bring pockets of the country’s livestock industry to a standstill, but it is one with an unspeakable human toll, as this week’s report has sadly illustrated.