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From the editor: Spread of disease threatens to infect UK's trade deals

‘The enemy is at the gates’ is how one Scottish farming commentator suggests bovine TB’s movement northwards is being seen. 

‘The enemy is at the gates’ is how one Scottish farming commentator suggests bovine TB’s movement northwards is being seen.

 

The seemingly relentless march of the disease is of huge concern to areas which currently have officially TB free status, such as Scotland, and fears are mounting among farmers and the wider industry as to what the disease could mean for trade, both domestic and export.

 

Scores of farmers in England and Wales understand all too well how difficult it is to bring cows and calves in from grass for blood tests every 60 days, and many in Scotland have been thanking their lucky stars Scotland is officially TB free.

 

But with 16 cases confirmed in Cumbria, there has also been an alarming case in Skye, which is a huge geographic leap for the disease, especially as it is believed no cattle have been brought in for the last six years.

 

Isolated outbreaks have happened before and sometimes never been explained. Here’s hoping this case in Skye is one of these and soon forgotten, as no-one in Scotland wants the disease wreaking the havoc it has done for years south of the border.

 

There is also the wider implications of the disease as we move towards post-Brexit trade deals and precisely what levels of the disease can justifiably be present for us to effectively trade with Europe. With the highest regional prevalence of bTB of anywhere in Europe at 17.7 per cent, some fear such numbers could cause real problems as we move towards brokering trade deals as EU officials would use any excuse to put up the barriers to trade.

 

The latest outbreaks in north west England and northern Scotland also highlight the fact disease does not respect boundaries, and in an increasingly polarised and fragmented era of UK politics let us hope there is cross-border commitments to tackling the ongoing blight of TB. After all, it is farmers, not bureaucrats, who bear the greatest burden in the ongoing battle against this bovine TB hell.

 

And finally, the finalists have been announced for this year’s British Farming Awards, and what a fantastic group are on the shortlist.


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