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Farmer: 'The only real winner here is the disease'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 24, 2012

Dairy farmer Paul Griffith

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Dairy farmer Paul Griffith was celebrating his herd being passed as TB-free when he heard the news.

"This was upsetting and very disappointing," said Mr Griffith, who milks 140 British Friesian and Montbeliarde cows at his farm, near Okehampton.

"The only real winner here is the disease and the longer we delay with these pilot culls, the longer it will take other areas to come to grips and solve the dreadful problems we face with TB."

Mr Griffith, who is the Devon representative on the main NFU Council, said any extra delay not only increased the pressure on farmers already facing hardship because of the disease, it did little to encourage new entrants to agriculture, who were vital.

"We want to get this strategy right for the next generation of farmers," he stressed. "Thank goodness we have an Environment Secretary in Owen Paterson who wants to press on and get the pilot culls working next year."

He was angry with the pro-badger lobby.

"The Badger Trust, the RSPCA, Brian May and the rest of them are not interested in the plight of farmers, or have any ideas how to help," he added.

"They blithely talk about vaccines for cattle and badgers, but we know the BSG vaccine only works for 70% of the time. What about the other 30% of our cattle? What we are looking for is a vaccine that is 100% certain to work."

Andrew Butler, acting regional director of the NFU in the South West, said there was "huge frustration" among cattle farmers right across the region at news of the culls' postponement.

"But they well understand, because it has been explained in a straightforward way, why we could not have delivery of the pilot culls within the timeframe available," he said.

"It's far better that we do the job properly next year, when we have more time."

But, he added, the delay in tackling TB was going to make life "very unpleasant" for very many beef and dairy farmers constantly threatened by the disease.

He added: "The key issue here and now is that this is a postponement and not cancellation, whatever anyone may like to claim.

"It was partly caused by the delays brought about by the legal challenges.

"The fact remains, it is not going to be good news for huge numbers of farm businesses already struggling with the problems connected with TB."

Andrew Praill, of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said he was disappointed, but insisted it was important to remember that the pilots were based on the available science and were designed to ensure the policy could be delivered effectively, humanely and safely, and eventually lead to the eradication of TB.

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 02 2012, 7:56PM

    Could& DEFRA be pushing harder Michael Ritchie, spokesman for Rethink Bovine TB: The only significant obstacle to a cattle TB vaccine is EU law, which forbids vaccination against BTB because it may interfere with the (woefully inaccurate) skin test. For this reason DEFRA has developed a test able to differentiate between vaccinated and infected cattle - the DIVA test. In 2010, DEFRA stated that it aimed to have BCG and the DIVA test licensed by 2012 but that "due to the need to change EU legislation, which is a lengthy process, we anticipate that a cattle vaccine and DIVA test could not be used in the field before 2015". It is now 2012 and both BCG and the DIVA test are ready to license, but DEFRA is vaguely stating that use is "many years away". Why the change from 2015? It is because DEFRA is hoping that proposed new EU animal health legislation will allow vaccination. It is not clear what steps, if any, DEFRA has taken to change the law or get a derogation during the years it has been developing the vaccine. It is equally perplexing that DEFRA is hoping a major redraft of EU law will provide the solution, rather than demanding that existing law is changed urgently to allow cattle farmers to protect their stock. Earlier this year, DEFRA asked the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to license the DIVA test. DEFRA was caught unawares when the OIE demanded UK field trials, trials that DEFRA claims it cannot do because use of the vaccine in the UK is illegal. There the matter is stuck - the vaccine is ready to license but illegal to use. The DIVA test removes the reason vaccination is illegal, making the law pointless. But the DIVA test cannot be licensed until the vaccine is legal. What is now needed is nothing more than a strong DEFRA minister who will put an end to this farce and order officials to find solutions - not create more bureaucratic muddles - so as to deploy cattle vaccination without delay. ✱ Rethink Bovine TB is an independent research group funded by people with an interest in public policy as it affects agriculture, animal diseases and welfare and the financial viability of farming.

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  • grannyonline1  |  November 02 2012, 6:45PM

    so this farmer will not accept a vaccine that is 70% effective, but chooses to kill badgers which has been proven to be only 16% effective. Now that does NOT make sense.

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