The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
6 November 2014
Dear Prime Minister
Bovine tuberculosis control
We are concerned that whilst Wales has nearly halved the number of cattle slaughtered due to bovine tuberculosis (bTB) over the last five years, there has been little change to the levels of bTB in England during this time.
Wales has reduced the number of cattle slaughtered per annum from 11,671 in 2009 to 6,102 in 2013 and the decline is continuing. Similarly the number of new herd incidents in Wales since 2008/09 has reduced by approximately 36%.
The Welsh Assembly Government has achieved this reduction by undertaking a) a TB Health Check in 2008/09 which established with accuracy the level of infection across all the cattle in Wales in the shortest period of time; b) imposing strict annual testing and mandatory pre-movement testing across the whole of Wales since 2010 and c) enforcing robust biosecurity, among other cattle-focussed measures.
By contrast, the UK Government and Defra have expended considerable time, effort and resources on the promotion and implementation of badger culling, as a means of controlling bTB in England. Furthermore, the modus operandi for badger culling adopted by Defra is markedly different from the protocol used in the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT). From the information available so far it is not clear whether the forecast net reduction of 12-16% in new herd incidence of bTB over the next nine years will be achieved or how this will be measured.
While Defra has been steadily increasing the areas under annual and pre-movement testing in the South West and West of England since 2009, these measures were only extended across all the counties in the High Risk and Edge Areas in 2013. It is important to note that in the West Region of England, which has been under annual and pre-movement testing since 2010/11, the number of cattle slaughtered due to bTB fell by 12% between 2012 and 2013 and this decline is continuing in 2014.
However, unlike Wales, England still has substantial parts of the country, with significant cattle populations, under a four yearly testing interval and not subject to mandatory premovement testing in what is termed the Low Risk Area. Under this testing regime there is no way of accurately knowing what the disease status of the so called Low Risk Area actually is and there is a high probability of onward transmission of undetected disease
In addition, the high profile and significant resources directed at the badger cull by Defra appears to have led to a belief among many in the livestock industry, the NFU and farmers that such strict cattle measures are not necessary to control bTB.
If we are to control bTB in England, as Wales is showing it is able to do, we consider that a fundamental change in emphasis and direction is needed. The time, effort and resources directed at the badger cull should be re-directed into a) a TB Health Check for England to establish the true extent and distribution of the disease in our cattle herds; b) considerably more testing in the Low Risk Area with the implementation of nationwide annual testing and c) the introduction of mandatory pre-movement testing and risk-based trading across the whole country.
At the same time the livestock industry, NFU and farmers must be made aware that such cattle controls are essential if bTB control is to be achieved.
We therefore urge that no further badger culling takes place and that Defra now moves swiftly to implement an intensive cattle testing programme, as detailed above, across the whole of England. Only then will the UK begin to achieve the substantial reduction in bTB that we all wish to see. If it would be of any assistance to discuss these matters further representatives from the signatories would very much welcome the opportunity to do so.
We enclose with this letter an Appendix setting out the information and data submitted in support of the matters raised above.
List of signatories:
Marc Abraham BVM&S MRCVS CEVA Special Recognition Award for Animal Welfare 2012. Grove Lodge Veterinary Group, 21 Southwick Street, Southwick, Brighton BN42 4AD
Caroline Allen MA VetMB CertSAM MRCVS. 226-228 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 3AP
Heather Bacon BSc (Hons) BVSc CertZooMed MRCVS. 20/3 St Peters Place, Edinburgh EH3 9PQ Professor
Tim Blackburn, Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, Darwin Building Room 118, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
Jan Bayley, Animal Welfare Group, Ashmead House, 3 The Common, Siddington, Cirencester, Glos, GL7 6EY
Chris Cheeseman BSc (Hons), PhD, St Annes, Brownshill, Stroud, Glos. GL6 8AP
Tim Coulson, PhD, BSc, Professor of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK
Fiona Dalzell BVSc BA (Hons) MRCVS. P.O. Box 36714, Merivale 8146, Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Dr Sarah M Durant, Theme leader People, Wildlife and Ecosystems, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4RY, UK
Bronwen Eastwood BSc (hons) BVetMed CertGP (SAP) MRCVS. Wilbury Veterinary Surgery, 20 Wilbury Avenue, Hove BN3 6HR
Richard Edwards MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS. Foxfield, Slindon Bottom Road, Fontwell, West Sussex BN18 0SN
Phill Elliott BVM&S MSc MRCVS. 9 Hunt Rd, Earls Colne, Essex CO6 2NX Nigel Finch FIAgrE, Farmer, Vice President CRAG, Woodlands, Chedworth, Cheltenham, GL34 4NT
Tim Hounsome BSc (Hons), MRes, PhD., MBOU, MCIEEM. 3 Lower Swainswick Cottages, Gloucester Road, Bath, BA1 7AR
Mark Jones BVSc MSc (Stir) MSc (UL) MRCVS Born Free Foundation, Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham, W Sussex RH12 4QP
Andrew Knight BSc (Vet Biol) BVMS Cert AW DipECAWBM (AWSEL) PhD MRCVS FOCAE. 189 Liberty Place, Sheepcote St, Birmingham B16 8JZ
Jo Lewis BSc BVMS (Hons) MRCVS. 138 Chobham Rd, Sunningdale, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 0HU
Iain McGill BSc (hons) BVetMed MRCVS. 81 Stanmer Park Road, Brighton, BN1 7JL
Alastair MacMillan BVSc MSc PhD FRCPath MRCVS, former RSPCA Chief Scientific Officer. Pointers, West Chiltington Rd, Pulborough, W Sussex RH20 2EE
Andre Menache BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS. Flat 5, 49 Granville Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HB
Professor Ken Norris, Director of Science, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY
Timothy J.Roper MA PhD. Emeritus Professor of Biology, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG.
Richard Saunders BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS CertZooMed DZooMed (Mammalian) CBiol MSB. 33 Cleeve Road, Bristol BS4 2JR
Peter Southgate BVetMed MSc MRCVS. 61 Ferry Road, Sudbourne, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 2BJ
Paul Torgerson PhD DECVPH VetMB MRCVS, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, University of Zurich. Section of Epidemiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurestrasse, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
Prof Rosie Woodroffe, Institute of Zoology, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK