Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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


 
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