Letter to the Prime Minister from the
Chair, Craven Badger Group
Having read an article in the Express
of 27 December 1999 about TB infected meat entering the food chain,
I feel compelled to make the following observations/comments.
A MAFF spokesman is quoted as saying "As
long as you cook it properly, there is no risk; even with improperly
cooked meat, the risk is small. The risk from blood from a rare
steak is also negligible. There have been no instances of transmission
of bovine TB to humans from eating contaminated meat and while
the incidence of TB in cattle has risen, the incidence of bovine
TB in humans has not". If this really is the case, why are
we bothering to try to eradicate TB from cattle and why do we
need to have the badger-culling trials? OK, that maybe too simplistic
a question, I am not naive. Any disease needs to be kept in check,
but as there is no risk from milk these days (if it is pasteurised)
and meat is okay, provided any infectious bits are removed as
the abattoir, would it not make more sense to try to contain the
disease by slightly different methods?
Continuation of herd testing is a must, but
done every year. Any identified positive animals need not be slaughtered
immediately, but should be branded and not allowed to be moved
from the farm other than to the abattoir. The farmer can continue
to milk, produce calves, whatever, if he so wishes, or can elect
to slaughter immediately, but HE gets whatever price he can at
the abattoir. The abattoirs may need to be better monitored to
check they do remove sufficient infected material, or do not claim
the animal is too badly infected when it isn't and so give a poor
price. If there was no compulsory compensation paid out, there
would hopefully be more money available for research into a vaccine.
The onus would be on farmers to improve their animal husbandry
methods and the badger cull could be stopped.
I'm sure most people would agree that in some
cases, badgers may well be involved in spreading TB, but it is
also very likely that other wild animals are involved as well.
Not enough is known about other factors, such as geology, climate,
mineral status, or cattle susceptibility.
Cut the compensation as suggested and free up
some of the money for profitable research.
I don't have all the answers, I'm sure there
are variables and pitfalls I haven't thought about, but I am sure
a great many people would agree that a new and different approach
is desperately needed to this problem!
27 January 2000