Bovine TB: Emotional toll on farmers 'must be explored'

The emotional and economic impact of bovine TB on a farming family is 'huge'
The emotional and economic impact of bovine TB on a farming family is 'huge'

The Welsh government must provide information on the financial impact of a bovine TB breakdown and the subsequent mental health impacts on farmers, farmers say.

The number of farming businesses which are suffering from stress and anxiety from bovine TB is likely to be high.

According to Defra’s latest statistics, the total number of animals slaughtered was 11662; herds under movement restrictions were 1002; total cattle tests carried out were 2,107,970 and there have been 730 new incidents.

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has urged the creation of a group to provide 'robust, Welsh specific information' on the disease's impacts on farmers' livelihoods and mental health.

The group said: “What is the emotional toll on them if their animals are sick or a whole herd comes down with bovine TB?

“Whilst a vet will be called to see to a sick cow, many farmers will not let their own feelings filter past the farmgate.”

To address the problem and discuss how bovine TB is affecting farmers mentally, the FUW is hosting a special event at the Royal Welsh Show - entitled ‘What impacts do TB breakdowns have on mental health?’.

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, Gareth Davies from charity Tir Dewi, Emma Picton-Jones from rural charity the DPJ Foundation, Charles Smith from charity Farm Community Network and Linda Jones from the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute (RABI) will discuss.

The event will discuss the relationship between mental health issues and economic pressures on farmers following a TB outbreak to ensure that farmers are receiving enough support.

Worried about the families who have to deal with continuing bovine TB breakdowns, Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said 'little thought' is given to farmers going through the effects of bovine TB.

“While the debate about the efficacy of the government's bovine TB eradication policy and testing regime continues, little thought is given about the families who find themselves caught in the middle of it all, having to deal with the terrible consequences of a reactor or breakdown,” he said.

A recent survey shows that 81% of farmers under the age of 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, and 92% believe that promoting good mental health is crucial if lives are to be saved.