ISG Report Fails Welsh farmers affected by TB according to NFU Cymru

UK - Astounded by the failure of the recent Independent Scientific Group (ISG) report in offering any solution to the TB infection spread in Wales, NFU Cymru will use the Royal Welsh Show to push home its message to the Minister that thorough, regular culling of diseased badgers, over relatively large areas bound by hard physical boundaries, would produce a significant reduction of bovine TB.
calendar icon 13 July 2007
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Dai Davies NFU Cymru President said, “The ISG’s conclusion that badger culling can make ‘no meaningful contribution’ to reducing TB in cattle is at odds with the findings of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) which found that repeated culling can be beneficial.

“From the very outset the ISG was given a very explicit declaration by Ministers at that time that the elimination of badgers over large tracts of countryside was not acceptable as future policy. We believe that this may have influenced the group’s objectivity.”

The ISG report states that the RBCT was not designed to test the impact of boundary permeability and ‘thus currently available data shed no light on whether a proactive culling policy would be more beneficial if conducted in more geographically isolated areas.’

NFU Cymru is convinced that a combination of the thoroughness of a badger cull and the physical boundaries the Welsh countryside offers would make Wales well-placed to address deficiencies in the RBCT.

NFU Cymru, in its initial response to the ISG findings says it believes it is vital that the report is not taken in isolation but used in conjunction with the other scientific reviews that have taken place over the years.

The Union is urging the Welsh Assembly Government to examine all the scientific evidence available including that of the Irish experience whereby the number of TB reactors has fallen by 42.6% in the five years since the Government adopted its current badger culling strategy.

In response to the ISG report’s conclusion that ‘farmers need to take ownership of the TB disease problem in their cattle herds rather than leaving it largely to Government to resolve’ NFU Cymru will reaffirm to the Minister during the Royal Welsh Show that the industry is engaged and willing to work in partnership with Government to tackle this disease but Government has to shoulder responsibility for the consequences of its past intransigence.

Also, the ISG’s conclusion that the Government should focus entirely on efforts to stop cattle to cattle transmission of bovine TB in the belief that cattle movement is a significant cause of the spread of the disease is not in NFU Cymru’s view, substantiated by science since VLA (Veterinary Laboratories Agency) evidence suggests a close geographical relationship between specific types of bovine TB in badgers and cattle rather than a mixed and non clustered random pattern.

Furthermore, ISG indicate that the spatial associations between infections in cattle and badgers provide evidence of transmission between the two host species cattle and badgers, but, cannot demonstrate the direction of transmission. Given this, NFU Cymru argues that it seems short sighted to concentrate solely on cattle to cattle transmission when the ISG acknowledges that badger to cattle transmission may be generated.

Dai Davies, NFU Cymru President said, “We have vowed to keep up the pressure for a cull of diseased badgers and will use whatever opportunities we can during the forthcoming Royal Welsh Show to do so.”

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