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'All cattle' at risk of bovine TB

12 July 2005 - BBC News

The president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has warned that all cattle in the South West are in danger of getting tuberculosis.

Tim Bennett issued the warning as he met the region's farmers whose herds have been affected by Bovine TB. Mr Bennett repeated his call to the government to start a cull of badgers which carry the disease.

Badger groups said there was no evidence culls would be effective and cattle movement is the problem.

The South West is already one of the hot spots for bovine TB in the UK. In Cornwall alone, between 1 January and 31 May, 250,000 cattle have been tested and 1,500 animals have been slaughtered. At the end of May 592 herds were under movement restrictions. In Devon 860 farms have suffered TB in cattle at some point this year.

Last month, a 3.3m three-year trial testing the effectiveness of TB vaccines for badgers was announced by the government. But the NFU said the problem was so bad the government could not afford to wait for the results. Mr Bennett said that badger culling, combined with restrictions on cattle movements could cure the problem until a vaccine was found. He said: "It is quite clear if you look at the research in the UK and around the world that if you are going to get rid of bovine TB, you need to make sure that all infected cattle and wherever possible, infected wildlife, are not there."

He said "tough decisions" would have to be made to eradicate the disease.

"We don't want to disturb any wildlife that are healthy but in terms of animal welfare, gassing is probably the nicest way to do it. The cost of this disease to farmers and to taxpayers and the spread of the disease is not acceptable. The farmers who have this disease in their cattle, knowing that it is perfectly possible to reduce or eliminate it, are in despair. It is putting at risk the entire cattle population of the South West unless we all sit down together and agree that we have to find a way of eradicating this disease."

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