Today is just one example of what is happening on farms across endemic TB areas, it is a farm with a closed herd; no cattle are brought on to farm. The only TB disease route is the badger setts that surround these fields.
Without the ability to control these badgers farmers are fighting to protect their cattle from a terrible disease with their hands tied firmly behind their backs.
This TB breakdown only goes to emphasise the importance of controlling the reservoir of TB in wildlife. The decision not to extend the pilot culls is a bitter disappoint to farmers like Paul. Without being able to control the wildlife which is spreading disease to their cattle they are rightly hugely frustrated and angry. It has a strangle-hold on their business.
Farmers continue to bear the brunt of regulations too. More and more we are seeing tighter cattle controls introduced but they are pointless without also tackling this disease in badgers.
I remain very concerned about the conclusions drawn in Independent Expert Panel report published last week. It has skewed the government’s decision on the wider use of the badger control policy.
While the IEP did outline accurately the challenges faced by those delivering the badger cull pilots, it has also made many assumptions based on anecdote, unpublished work which hasn’t been peer reviewed, or selective use of evidence.
It’s conclusions on humaneness and effectiveness are simply not reflected in the experiences of those people on the ground.
What is clear is that we need to look at other ways of controls badgers if we are to reduce TB in cattle. I will be visiting Ireland to look at how they have achieved success in reducing badger numbers and TB. The NFU is also committed to doing its own analysis of all of the evidence to help find a way forward for the current policy.
The pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire were carried out by well-trained, experienced contractors and required huge levels of commitment in the face of unacceptable intimidation and harassment by protestors.
We remain confident that these pilots will help to deliver a reduction of TB in cattle as planned. And it is vital that they are allowed to be successfully completed so they can deliver the expected reductions in TB in cattle.