Farmers need no lessons about the devastating impact that bovine tuberculosis (bTB) can have – last year alone more than 42,000 cows were slaughtered prematurely after testing positive for the disease.
But a new independent review commissioned by the Government into its strategy for tackling bTB, amid ongoing controversy about badger culling to control the disease, has highlighted the need for united action in dealing with the issue.
The review found that badger culling, which is opposed by animal welfare charities, has a “real but modest” effect on the incidence of TB in herds but also stated more could be done within the livestock industry to reduce problems through relatively simple biosecurity measures such as installing buffers between farms and injecting slurry into the ground rather than spreading it to prevent surface contamination.
As review chairman Sir Charles Godfray put it, while many in the farming sector are doing “tremendous things” on the issue, there is a challenge to tackle the “fatalism” among some about the problem.
But it is equally important for the Government to work with farmers to encourage them to bring in new measures in an affordable way. More effective testing of cattle in high-risk areas, to help remove the disease from herds quickly, is one such potential policy that deserves serious consideration.
Ending the scourge of bovine TB and the devastation it causes in the coming years will not be easy or come without cost. But with a combined approach, it is a fight that can be won.