NFU AGM REPORT - Row over Bovine TB and Badger Culling

UK - Environment secretary Hilary Benn came under fierce attack at the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union in Birmingham on Monday over government policy towards Bovine Tuberculosis and culling of badgers.
calendar icon 16 February 2009
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National Farmers Union

In his opening address to the conference, the president of the NFU said that there was a need for a long-term strategy for animal health.

He said that while the British government had come up with an effective strategy to tackle the threat of bluetongue, actions over TB had been less than what the farming industry had wanted.

He said the industry was concerned that the prediction that 40,000 cattle would be slaughtered over the last year because of bovine TB looks like being met.

And he attacked the insensitivity of government over their attitude towards the slaughter of animals and the effect it is having on the industry.

Mr Kendall received warm applause when he attacked the government over its decision not to consider culling badgers as a means to restrict the spread of TB from badgers to cattle.

"Bluntly, I have to tell you, you got it wrong," Mr Kendall told the environment secretary.

"And we will seek to overturn it in any way we can."

However, Mr Kendall applauded the fact that the government is looking to put forward an eradication plan for bovine TB.

"We remain convinced that eradication will mean tackling all sources of the disease; and we will pursue this relentlessly," Mr Kendall said.

"A proper long-term animal health policy means taking the politics out of animal disease.

"We are ready to take our responsibility, provided that genuinely independent structures are in place; but we will resist all attempts to impose costs on us that are too often the result of unnecessary or inefficient processes."

Environment secretary Hilary Benn did little to ease the farmers' union concerns over the effect that badgers have in spreading bovine TB and he stood resolutely behind his decision taken earlier this year not to approve licences to cull badgers.

While he said he sympathised with the farmers affected by bovine TB, he said he took the decision last year based on scientific reports.

He added that the government was investing £20 million in the research to find a vaccine against TB, which he hoped would be available in the next three years.

However, in reply to a question from a farmer over the government action he said the biggest challenge will be to persuade the European Union to change it ban on a TB vaccine and allow it to be used.

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