UK – Misinformation is filling the badger cull knowledge void while the Independent Expert Panel produces its report, a leading veterinarian has said.
Addressing the British Veterinary Association (BVA) during its annual dinner, Association President Robin Hargreaves said the media is guilty of painting a picture in which the only choices are vaccination or culling.
“That picture is false and damaging,” said Mr Hargreaves.
He described the misinformation and misunderstanding clouding the bovine tuberculosis debate.
He backed badger vaccination but stressed the importance of culling in endemic areas.
“Badger vaccination clearly has a role to play in the eradication of bovine TB, and we were pleased to see it included in the government’s TB strategy,” said Mr Hargreaves. “But, there is no evidence to suggest that it is currently a viable alternative to culling in the fight against the disease in cattle in the endemic areas.”
Recognition was given to the ‘highly emotive’ nature of the subject and he stressed that no measure can tackle bovine tuberculosis in isolation.
Summing up the importance of accurate facts in the TB debate, he said: “It is essential that the public debate is well informed and based on fact. We will continue to do the best we can to add the veterinary perspective to the conversation.”
He questioned government policy on TB testing services, saying that the current tender arrangements are not the only available route.
However, Mr Hargreaves recognised the need for budgetary measures to reduce the overall cost of TB testing.
The BVA’s preferred solution, Mr Hargreaves said is: “A system that recognises the vital importance of maintaining our existing local infrastructure of veterinary practices, one that reinforces the value of the trusted relationship between local veterinary surgeons and their farm clients, especially in communicating messages on policy, biosecurity, and other advice, and one that reflects the government’s policy priority of supporting small businesses.”
On the wider issue of disease in livestock, he said decisions must not be made on cost alone.
“If we lose our capacity to protect the UK from disease incursion it will be impossible to get it back,” warned Mr Hargreaves.
He concluded this is why the UK must have a ‘robust’ surveillance system.
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