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NFU CONFERENCE - Minister Greeted with Protests of TB Policy

23 February 2010

UK - The Secretary of State for the environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Hilary Benn, was greeted with a protest when stood to make his keynote speech at the National Farmers Union Conference in Birmingham, writes TheCattleSite senior editor Chris Harris.

The protestors were angry at the government stance on the eradication of Bovine TB.

And the voiced concerns about the lack of government willingness to introduce badger culls to help stop the spread of the disease.

During his speech, Mr Benn said: "I realise that most of you, if not all of you, believe my decision not to cull was the wrong one, but I stand by it.

"It was made on the basis of trying culling, the views of the Independent Scientific Group, the practicality of delivering a successful cull, and not wanting to do something that might make a terrible disease even worse than it already is.

"Of course we will be watching what happens in Wales closely, and we will look carefully at the results of the Badger Vaccine Deployment Programme in the six areas in England, starting this summer."

Mr Benn said the government will continue to invest in badger and cattle vaccines.

"We disagree on culling, but I have accepted all the recommendations the ISG put to me last October in their progress report."

However, NFU president Peter Kendall said in his speech that no amount of regulation and no amount of testing is going to eradicate bovine TB from the national herd.

He asked the Secretary of State to spell out what he will be doing about the crisis.

"The answer matters to a rapidly increasing proportion of rural communities.

"TB will be a major factor in how rural communities cast their vote in a couple of months' time.

"Farmers want political leadership on this issue."

However, in questions from farmers Mr Benn said he would not change his policy of no badger cull and fully backed a programme of vaccination as a means of eradicating bovine TB.

TheCattleSite News Desk



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