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New restrictions for farmers and an uncertain future for Badgers

[Monday 27 March 2006]

New rules to help reduce the risk of spreading bovine Tuberculosis through the movement of cattle come in to force across England from today.

The notifiable disease is on the increase in Britain's cows and has the Government and farming industry worried, but with differing opinions on how to control its spread.

Farmers face new restrictions as TB rules come into force
Farmers face new restrictions as TB rules
come into force

The UK already has a rigorous testing scheme in place covering every beef and dairy herd in the country, and those farms found to be infected are placed under restriction and their milk disposed of.

From today the Government has gone further and announced that cattle aged over 15 months of age that are being moved out of a herd must have tested negative for bovine TB within the 60 days prior to their movement.

The testing regime is going ahead despite the concerns of farmers' leaders who say it will impose a financial and bureaucratic burden on their members, as farmers' must arrange and pay for the tests themselves.

Defra has long regarded pre-movement testing as a critical tool in tackling bovine TB. However, in response to recent suggestions that there would be practical and operational difficulties with its introduction, Defra carried out a review that has now reported there is no evidence to justify any further delay in the testing going ahead.

The review found that most Local Veterinary Inspectors had a good general awareness of the new requirements and felt they would be able to respond to and meet the expected demand for testing.

The Government's Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Debby Reynolds, said: "Bovine TB has reached severe levels in some parts of the country.

Government may order a controversial Badger cull
Government may order a controversial Badger cull

"Effective cattle controls are vital to combat this problem. Pre-movement testing will reduce the risk of this disease spreading within high incidence areas and help keep clean areas clean."

The testing scheme is just one controversial part of a wider controversial package that could see one of the country's largest ever Badger culls undertaken.

It is a widely held view in the farming community that Badgers do spread bovine TB and the National Farmers Union (NFU) is generally in favour of the cull going ahead. Wildlife and conservation groups are opposing the move and both sides are eagerly awaiting a decision from Defra following the environment department's recent public consultation on the issue.

The proposed Badger cull has created much heated debate between the Government, farmers and conservation groups

But, what do you think?

Should the cull go ahead?

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