Farmers have been urged to write to their MP in the wake of the Derbyshire badger cull U-turn, in-a-bid to communicate the true cost of bovine TB to human mental health, as well as animal welfare.
Farm vet and member of the TB Advisory Service Sarah Tomlinson told an audience at the annual Woman in Dairy conference, Worcestershire, that in the days since the Defra announcement, MPs had received ‘hundreds’ of emails in support of the cull.
She said that although there had been ‘plenty’ of opposing view-points received in the past, this was the first time support on such a scale had been received since calls for the cull were introduced.
Mrs Tomlinson said: “Do not assume your MP understands what you are doing on-farm, how TB could or is affecting you and your business or that the cull is actually working. Write to them and tell them.
“In the 18 years I have worked in Derbyshire, I have seen businesses destroyed, families torn apart and whole herd genetics from generations of work wiped out, all because of decisions forcibly made because of TB.
“Mental health is a big issue in the farming industry. It is affecting homes and livelihoods as well as destroying businesses – this is real.”
Mrs Tomlinson raised concerns about how the disease status of England and Wales might affect future trade deals outside the EU.
She also highlighted the spiralling costs associated with bovine TB, which she suggested cost the taxpayer some £100 million annually.
Mrs Tomlinson went onto stress that it was, however, crucial for individuals at grass-roots level to continue to take steps to minimise risk on their own holdings.
The length of slurry storage, grazing proximity to badger sets in endemically affected areas and off-ground feed storage in feed bins or behind closed roller doors at night were highlighted, as well as careful consideration when buying-in cattle and water sources.
She added: "Ask for TB information when buying in cattle, and when the source last had a breakdown. Consider that the disease bacteria can live for up to 60 days in water, so in areas with an infected wildlife population, why would you not raise water troughs so badgers cannot drink out of them."