Veterinary associations are taking urgent action to address the serious problem of TB fraud that has come to light.
Defra Minister of State Jim Paice today announced that he has received evidence that a small number of farmers have been illegally swapping cattle eartags in order to retain highly productive TB reactors.
The evidence was gathered during a regional slaughterhouse survey undertaken by Gloucestershire Trading Standards. Additional investigations are now taking place in other counties.
Retaining on farm cattle that test positive for bovine TB increases the risk of spread of TB to other herds and wildlife.
In order to address the situation urgently from mid-April DNA tags will be inserted in the ear of cattle that test positive for TB at the time of the test. These tags remove a small tissue sample at the time of insertion which can then be DNA tested by Animal Health. The samples will be cross-checked on a random basis against the DNA from animals sent to slaughter.
In recognition of the seriousness of this situation, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) are asking members who carry out TB tests to support Animal Health by undertaking the additional measure of DNA tagging for no additional fee for a period of six months.
Commenting, Harvey Locke, BVA President, said:
"This fraudulent activity by a small number of farmers is shocking. Worryingly it puts the national TB eradication strategies at risk and urgent action is required to prevent it happening in the future.
"The BVA and BCVA, in supporting Animal Health, are asking our members to insert the new DNA tags and collect the tissue samples of cattle that test positive for TB at the time of the test for no additional fee for a period of six months.
"The Minister has acknowledged that these emergency measures would not be possible without the commitment and support of the veterinary profession."
John Fishwick, BCVA President, added:
"The selfish actions of a small minority of farmers are undermining the hard work and integrity of the vast majority and undermining efforts to control TB in cattle.
"The BVA and BCVA believe that the veterinary profession must now do all it can to deal with this most serious issue and safeguard the integrity of the TB eradication programmes in England and Wales.
"We very much appreciate the support and cooperation that our members can give to Animal Health."