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Badger control is crucial if PGI status is to pay off

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 30, 2014

Comments (7)

NO ONE is more relieved than I that at last we have achieved protected EU status for West Country beef and lamb.

Long before the start of the eight-year campaign which resulted in the EU awarding Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, I was arguing that the unique, grass-fed meat from this region was so distinctive that it merited recognition.

The designation will allow shoppers in this country to opt for a superior product and, in theory, will add a valuable export commodity to the range of speciality foods for which we are becoming recognised.

But I say "in theory" because there are misgivings about the benefits and practicalities of the new status, particularly among those whose job it is to promote British meat.

They are asking themselves how they can give assurances of a steady supply of certified PGI products to overseas buyers at a time when TB is cutting a swathe through the ranks of the South West's livestock farmers.

The fear is that we end up creating a market that we are not able to supply simply because we are still not adopting a sufficiently robust attitude to badger control and disease eradication.

The EU has made it plain that it expects to see positive results in return for the considerable funds it has provided for us to combat the menace of bovine TB.

As of January 1, we have seen more controls imposed on farmers. Not all farmers appear to realise the significance of this but, essentially, if a farmer owns and runs several blocks of land and one is shut down because of TB, all the others will automatically be shut down, too.

Then there are the penalties for late testing, which will lead to fines in the forms of reductions in Single Farm Payments – the very money on which so many livestock farmers rely.

I've had my own experience in this direction, fencing off a badger sett on the advice of Defra to avoid cattle contact only to be penalised by the Rural Payments Agency for claiming on land that cattle did not have access to, though technically it was still grazing land.

The consolation is that my cattle went clear of TB.

But all these controls, all these additional measures, are proving so onerous that many livestock farmers are simply chucking in the towel, concluding there are less arduous ways of earning a living.

And we are still only treating the symptoms of the TB epidemic, not the cause.

We are still only tackling the effects of the problem rather than making a serious assault on the reasons it is there: a massive population of infected wild animals.

Unless we make the wholesale control of badgers an absolute priority there are only two possible outcomes, neither of them palatable.

Either we shall find the door slammed on exports, dealing a crippling blow to the economy of the South West, or, when the all-important world market comes knocking on the door and waving lucrative contracts, we shall simply not have the volumes of beef and lamb to supply– PGI status or not.

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  • Ilovebadgers  |  January 31 2014, 11:41PM

    Absolute bilge obviously from some one who has not a clue a clue ? is this Praterson that has written this I wonder. Or one of his cronies no one else would be so stupid and misinformed.

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  • mmjames  |  January 31 2014, 7:22PM

    Of all the badgers vaccinated in Wales, none have been found to be suffering from BOVINE TB .............. How many were pm'd to check whether they had Zoonotic Tuberculosis? Was PCR used?

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  • newactivist  |  January 31 2014, 4:18PM

    What a disgraceful misrepresentation of the truth. Whoever you are, you should be ashamed to be writing such total garbage, in clear contradiction of the science and the evidence. 1.7% of badgers are deemed to be infectious and 95% of bTB is deemed to be cattle to cattle infection. Of all the badgers vaccinated in Wales, none have been found to be suffering from BOVINE TB. Get your own farms in order and leave the wildlife in peace.

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  • Nat222  |  January 31 2014, 4:07PM

    Mikethepike: "This really is a disgraceful piece of propaganda" Couldn't agree more. Difficult to say which is the most shocking aspect of this: the serious contemplation of 'the wholesale control (sic) of badgers' rather than go to the trouble of actually carrying out the proved means of controlling bTB in cattle , or the blatant dishonesty of ignoring all the known evidence. As you say, no name to the article - possibly because it's likely to be very familiar.

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  • Barri  |  January 31 2014, 1:21PM

    Another unwelcome Farming development.

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  • Mikethepike  |  January 30 2014, 8:37PM

    This really is a disgraceful piece of propaganda. Farmers themselves have to put their house in order first before worrying about the theoretical threat posed by badgers. The skin test's ineffectiveness spreads more TB than all the badgers put together. At best it detects only four fifths of the diseased cattle in a herd. The rest remain, passing TB on to other cattle, which in their turn infect badgers through their excretions. Farmers are advised to put disease prevention measures in place, but most don't bother, but they still expect the taxpayers to pay them full compensation. Countless farms have a very poor history of bTB--not because of badgers but because of the failure of the skin test and farmers' habit of buying blind--not knowing or caring where the cattle come from and whether they come from a herd with a bad disease history. Then we have the millions of cattle movements every year in the UK--the highest in Europe--and of course it is disease on the hoof, disease that often ends up scores, even hundreds of miles away. Defra's best estimate is that slaughtering thousands of badgers might--and it's a big might--cut net bTB spread by 12-16 per cent after NINE years. That's all. For a glimpse of the failure of the skin test just look at official figures and see how many thousands of supposedly disease-free cattle are diagnosed as bTB carriers at the slaughterhouse stage. They were not reactors. They were supposedly clean cattle. But they weren't --they were full of disease. Stop blaming the badgers. Get to grips with your own failings first

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  • E_Badger  |  January 30 2014, 1:16PM

    The author of this scarmongering piece has been careful not to identify themselves, other than a generalised reader assumption that they might be a livestock farmer, possibly working in the south-west region in a "bTB hotspot area". They are also careful to ignore the facts that since the introduction of tighter cattle controls from January 2013 incidences of bTB in cattle, from those actually tested, have dropped 10% and that is before the possible effects of the wholesale badger slaughter are taken into account (note: DEFRA still to admit to one single badger shot actually having bTB). I also say from those actually tested because up until late last year 50% of herds due for testing were still outstanding - so chasing up of such matters was obviously not too high on the agenda. By their own admission, fencing off a badger sett had positive effect of reducing contact from a potential if unproven source of bTB and of course direction of transmission works both ways, but I will assume given context that neither badger or cow were bTB positive. When it comes down to "...treating the symptoms of the TB epidemic, not the cause..." (1) bTB is not as endemic as stated, only in the region of most high density cattle management and (2) the only way to prevent infection in cattle, from which and whatever source, is to vaccinate the cow. Wholesale shooting of badger and the implied decimation of other wildlife that this author suggests has already proven to be met with resistance. Why not go the path of least resistance and adopt vaccination?

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