Bovine TB tests inflict vast costs and have little proven benefit

Defra should not make farmers the scapegoat

Brussels, 27 March 2006 -- New bovine TB tests, which come into force today, will add vast costs to British Farmers' overheads whilst not tackling the real cause of bovine TB, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Deputy Leader in Brussels, said today.

He said it was time for Defra to stop running scared over bovine TB and take action to ensure a healthier population of badgers - the carriers of the disease. He said the farmers with whom he had spoken were given the impression Defra would introduce new controls on badgers when these new tests came into effect.

Sir Robert also said Defra's rules on animals heading for slaughter were too open to interpretation as farmers often do not know which animals are included in the rules. He accused Defra of sending mixed signals to British farmers.

He said:

"Controlling the spread of TB by introducing pre-movement testing is like curing the flu with a gold-plated handkerchief. Defra needs to get to the root of the problem and stop making farmers the scapegoat. Badgers are carrying the disease from farm to farm yet the government is doing little to control them.

"Defra should stop vacillating and start to take action to make our badger population healthier.

"The message from the government is, as ever, confused and based on the view that farmers can pay for Defra's inability to take decisive action to root out the cause of the disease."

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