The 2012 toll, of 38,010 cattle slaughtered as TB reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts, represents an increase of approximately 10 per cent on the 2011 figure of 34,668 and is the third highest figure recorded in recent times. The peak remains the 2009 figure of just under 40,000 cattle.
The figures showed 5,171 herds across Britain suffered new ‘TB incidents’ in 2012, compared with 4,901 in 2011.
The increase in cattle slaughterings and new herds affected can be partly attributed to an increase in TB testing levels last year. The number of tests on officially TB free herds across Britain during 2012 was 73,627 compared with 62,481 in 2011, while the number of cattle tested topped 8 million, compared with 7.5m in 2011.
The number of TB-related slaughterings increased in both England and Wales. A total of 28,284 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012, a 7 per cent increase compared to 2011, while in Wales 9,307 cattle were slaughtered in 2012 compared with just over 8,000 in 2011.
Referring to the situation in England, Farming Minister David Heath said the new statistics ‘highlight the growing impact of the disease on the UK dairy and beef industry and emphasise the need to take urgent action to reduce the spread of TB’.
“Bovine TB continues to spread at an unacceptable rate, leading to the slaughter of thousands of cattle and ongoing misery for our dairy farmers.
“What was once confined to a small area of the south west has the potential to become a national crisis and if left unchecked could cost the taxpayer £1 billion over the next ten years. We cannot afford to sit back and let this happen, which is why we are doing everything we can to get on top of this dreadful disease.”
NFU President Peter Kendall said the figures ‘hammer home the fact that TB is out of control and that cattle measures alone will not help to combat the disease’.
“TB is one of the largest threats facing our beef and dairy farmers,” he said. “In 1998 we had 6,000 cattle with TB in the whole of Great Britain. From today we see that by the end of 2012 this figure has jumped to 38,010 - 28,284 in England alone. This means we have seen almost ten per cent more cattle culled in Great Britain, and a seven per cent increase in England, because of TB since 2011. And it is not just in endemic areas, TB is creeping into new areas like the North and East Midlands, Cheshire and the South East. This has to stop.
“Today, I repeat our commitment to the Government’s TB eradication plan which involves tighter cattle controls and increased on-farm biosecurity and we remain convinced that, as today’s figures clearly demonstrate, cattle controls alone are not enough to tackle this disease while we have a reservoir of TB in our wildlife. Badger controls can play a fundamental part in ridding our countryside of TB once and for all.”
Carl Padgett, past president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “These statistics make for sober reading as we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cattle slaughtered in the last year.
“The figures remind us that urgent action is required to help us get on top of this disease. We need to ensure compliance amongst farmers with the tougher cattle control measures, a strong push from the Government on cattle and badger vaccination, and support for measures to tackle the disease in badgers through piloting a targeted, humane cull.”