There is a better way of tackling bovine TB

Continuing with the current policy, even with marginal changes, cannot be considered a serious option.

So what options exist?

At the very least: drastically increased severity should be applied to the current policy, along the lines of measures adopted in Australia and the USA, might increase effectiveness:

  • Changing from culling of individual animals to complete herd depopulation, dealing with wildlife reservoirs and delaying restocking of cattle.

  • Increased risk based and out of area movement controls.

  • More frequent testing of cattle, and use of alternative tests.

Clearly the political and financial cost of such measures would be prohibitive and attainment of ‘official TB free’ status would still take decades to achieve.

Preferably:
An acceptance that Bovine TB is not a significant human health risk in the UK and that farmers know best what will work in their circumstances:

  • Farms would be free to choose to vaccinate cattle and/or various degrees of compulsory vaccination could be introduced.

  • Milk would continue to be pasteurised.

  • Inspection at abattoirs would continue.

  • Farms would be free to continue routine testing and acquire herd TB free status or to choose vaccinated status, in response to market demand or farm preference.

  • Any animal showing actual symptoms of Bovine TB would be tested and either slaughtered, or in appropriate cases, could be isolated and treated.

  • Farmers would have the freedom to choose (within guidelines) the most suitable means for Bovine TB control in their circumstances. This is how most animal health problems are successfully managed.
  • Full document : 'Bovine TB - Time for a Rethink'

Rethink Bovine TB (bTB) is an independent research group funded by people with an interest in examining public policy as it affects agriculture, animal diseases, animal welfare and the financial viability of farming.

Rethink Bovine TB gratefully acknowledges original research and evidence offered by academic and industry experts and information and data provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

We hope that this report will serve to stimulate discussion and bring the Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) policy, essentially unchanged for many decades, rapidly into the twenty first century. We look forward to and welcome comments and criticism from all who read it.

In this, the second edition of our document, we discuss the Bovine TB policy in England and Wales, and propose radical but practical and cost effective solutions. We will draw our evidence from a variety of sources, but in particular Defra (the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) and.

We avoid complex statistical manipulation, as the same data and numerical evidence is being used to prove opposing views. We will instead concentrate on simple clear facts, and demonstrable cause and effects.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information

 

1. Continuing with the current policy, even with marginal changes, cannot be considered a serious option.
2. Drastically increased severity applied to the current policy, along the lines of measures adopted in Australia and the USA, might increase effectiveness:
* Changing from culling of individual animals to complete herd depopulation, dealing with wildlife reservoirs and delaying restocking of cattle.
* Increased risk based and out of area movement controls.
* More frequent testing of cattle, and use of alternative tests.
Clearly the political and financial cost of such measures would be prohibitive and attainment of ‘official TB free’ status would still take decades to achieve.
3. Acceptance that Bovine TB is not a significant human health risk in the UK and that farmers know best what will work in their circumstances.
* Farms would be free to choose to vaccinate cattle and/or various degrees of compulsory vaccination could be introduced.
* Milk would continue to be pasteurised.
* Inspection at abattoirs would continue.
* Farms would be free to continue routine testing and acquire herd TB free status or to choose vaccinated status, in response to market demand or farm preference.
* Any animal showing actual symptoms of Bovine TB would be tested and either slaughtered, or in appropriate cases, could be isolated and treated.
* Farmers would have the freedom to choose (within guidelines) the most suitable means for Bovine TB control in their circumstances. This is how most animal health problems are successfully managed.
The principle objection to vaccination is that, according to Defra (Options for vaccinating cattle against bovine tuberculosis, June 2007 16); “Not all vaccinated animals would be protected from TB and therefore vaccination alone will not be sufficient to demonstrate disease free status without testing and allow trade in those animals”. This is a disingenuous argument, as use of the skin test to demonstrate TB free status and select potentially infectious cattle is subject to the same shortcoming.

In our most recent discussion paper we consider current Bovine TB policy in England and Wales, and propose alternatives that we believe to be both practical and cost effective.

We have drawn our evidence from a variety of sources, but in particular from Defra (the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) and from earlier work by Professor Paul Torgerson and Professor David Torgerson.

Where numerical or statistical arguments are necessary to show what is actually happening on farms, we have explained the argument as clearly as possible. We have also explained that some widely held views are supported only by statistical correlation (open to many alternative explanations), rather than any evidence of a physical link between effect and presumed cause.

Click the picture or click here to read the document in its original format

Time for a radical rethink

 

Time for a change of Policy?

We are suffering under a policy that has demonstrably failed, at massive cost to farmers, to the taxpayer, and to animal welfare. At best it will take several more decades of cattle testing and slaughter to achieve ‘official TB free’ status.
No sound reason exists for the ‘test and cull’ policy.

A better way must be found

When, as is the case with Bovine TB, no overriding public or animal welfare interest exists, farmers are best left to take responsibility for their own animals and business decisions.
Given the lack of real practical human health risk, we propose that option (bottom left) should be adopted.

Further information and references

‘Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?’ (by Professors Paul R. Torgerson and David J. Torgerson), proposes that bTB control in cattle is irrelevant as a public health policy. They provide evidence to confirm that cattle-to-human transmission is negligible. They believe there is little evidence for a positive cost benefit in terms of animal health of bTB control. Such evidence is required; otherwise, there is little justification for the large sums of public money spent on bTB control in the UK.

Our report can be downloaded (left) and by clicking the links on the references the relevant documents referred to below will be displayed. (Note: Defra links are liable to change as they continually reorganise their web site).

Another independent website, www.bovinetb.co.uk questions and debates existing policy. It also includes case studies which reveal the flaws of the existing tests and how the policy is having an adverse effect on those involved in farming with animals.