38,000 cattle slaughtered to combat TB in 2012
The published results highlight the growing impact of the disease on the UK dairy and beef industry and emphasise the 'need to take urgent action to reduce the spread of TB', the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
"Bovine TB continues to spread at an unacceptable rate, leading to the slaughter of thousands of cattle and ongoing misery for our dairy farmers" Farming Minister David Heath said.
"What was once confined to a small area of the south west has the potential to become a national crisis and if left unchecked could cost the taxpayer £1 billion over the next ten years. We cannot afford to sit back and let this happen, which is why we are doing everything we can to get on top of this dreadful disease."
Today's new figures come despite increased cattle controls, additional pre-movement testing and stricter on-farm biosecurity measures which were introduced in July last year.
More new tough on-farm rules were also introduced in January 2013 as part of the Government's TB eradication plan which aims to tackle all aspects of TB infection in the countryside.
Carl Padgett, past President of the British Veterinary Association said: "The figures remind us that urgent action is required to help us get on top of this disease."
"We need to ensure compliance amongst farmers with the tougher cattle control measures, a strong push from the Government on cattle and badger vaccination, and support for measures to tackle the disease in badgers through piloting a targeted, humane cull."
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson confirmed two badger cull schemes are to go ahead in the summer to tackle the spread of TB among cattle.
Paterson said: "Bovine TB is spreading at an alarming rate and causing real devastation to our beef and dairy industry."
NFU President Peter Kendall said today's figures 'hammer home the fact that TB is out of control.'
"TB is one of the largest threats facing our beef and dairy farmers" he said.
"In 1998 we had 6,000 cattle with TB in the whole of Great Britain. From today we see that by the end of 2012 this figure has jumped to 38,010 - 28,284 in England alone."
"This means we have seen almost ten per cent more cattle culled in Great Britain, and a seven per cent increase in England, because of TB since 2011. And it is not just in endemic areas, TB is creeping into new areas like the North and East Midlands, Cheshire and the South East. This has to stop."
The Farmers' Union of Wales said 'huge damage' was being done to cattle herds as a result of a massive rise in the badger population.
"These researchers have quite rightly highlighted the damaging impact that an expanded deer population in some parts of the UK is having on woodlands, and the knock-on effect on other animals such as woodland birds" said FUW president Emyr Jones who was speaking after a recent council meeting.
A recent study by the University of East Anglia warned that wildlife and the environment could suffer as the UK's deer population increases. Jones said people 'must have the backbone' to apply the same logic to badgers.
"Generally deer are not a major problem in most of Wales, but we have a badger population which has grown to unbelievable levels since the 1970s, and badgers are now found living and foraging on mountains and moorland at heights of over 1000ft above sea level – well away from their traditional woodland habitats.
"Some farms have seen at least a five-fold increase, and it is pretty obvious that five times more badgers need five times as much food. They don’t get that food from the local supermarket; a large proportion of their diet is made up of other animals."
Other key figures published today show:
The number of TB tests carried out in 2012 in England was 5,849,498, up from 5,493,311 in 2011. This reflects the increased testing being undertaken to monitor the spread of the disease.
The number of new TB incidents in herds was 3,941 – an increase of 5% from 2011 (3763 incidents)
In 2011 26,480 cattle were slaughtered in England as a result of TB.
But recent research conducted by Durham University claimed a widespread badger cull will have no impact in solving the problem of tuberculosis in cattle.
Professor Peter Atkins, from Durham University's Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience investigated the spread of the disease.
"Badgers almost certainly play a part in spreading the disease, but my conclusion is that their impact over the decades has been far less than suggested" said Atkins.
"Very carefully arranged culling may have a part to play alongside other measures in areas of particular prevalence such as South West England and South Wales, but my research suggests that extending the policy elsewhere may neither be justified nor particularly effective. It certainly won't be a panacea."
With the new more rigorous, better enforced cattle management controls, you test more cattle (in larger herds) and you test them more often. Unsurprisingly you pick up more cattle bTB cases.
There is NO evidence about which way round bTB transmission works between the species.
We know cattle to cattle transmisssion happens (that's been demonstrated in a properly controlled experiment).
We know that cattle bTB exists in areas where THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO BADGERS.
We know that the percentage of badgers infected with bTB is very small, the percentage of badgers which are infectious (ie capable of infecting other animals) is even smaller.
We know from the epidemiological data that peaks and troughs in the amount of cattle bTB follow what happens as regards the movement of cattle (eg a peak after F & M when cattle from bTB hotspots were used to re-stock clean areas).
Take the above sets of facts together and you can be pretty sure that badgers are almost irrelevant to cattle bTB and the problem to focus on is how you MANAGE CATTLE to kill off bTB.
Personally, I've never understood why farmers haven't been chasing DEFRA much harder to get on with the UK trials of the cattle bTB vaccine and with negotiating a deal with the EU that would allow them to use it.
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