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icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk Jan 5 2006

One woman's fight to protect her cows

By Sarah Probert, Rural Affairs Reporter

The Government is to use controversial powers to take a farmer to court after she refused to have her animals slaughtered.

Vets claim eight cattle from a farm in Pensax, Worcester-shire, which have reacted to a bovine TB test, pose a risk to humans and other animals and should be killed immediately.

The test means the cattle could potentially harbour the disease but does not mean they actually have it.

But Samantha Qureshi, who keeps four of the animals as pets, believes the methods to test for bovine TB are flawed and has vowed to fight the case.

She stopped officials from taking away the animals when they arrived at Lower Snead Farm two days before Christmas.

Worcestershire Trading Standards, acting on behalf of the Government, will use legislation under the Animal Health Act 2002 to apply for a warrant to remove them in the next few days.

It is only the second time officials in the region have used the Act to take a farmer to court.

The legislation was introduced after the foot-and-mouth crisis and gives officials unprecedented powers to kill any animal they wish to and makes it a criminal offence for owners to object.

Ms Qureshi is insisting further tests should be carried out before the animals are culled.

She said: "We want to go to court to defend ourselves and tell the judge why we don't want to give these animals up."

A spokesman for the State Veterinary Service said: "The situation is that the cows have reacted on this farm and these cows are deemed to be a threat to other animals on the farm and neighbouring farms and also potentially threatening even to humans."

The spokesman said the TB tests were 90 per cent accurate and further tests would be unreliable as the cattle would have developed antibodies to the first test.

He said the disease could be present in the animal even if it was not detected at a postmortem examination.

Council officials were forced to apply for a warrant to take away two cattle from a farm in Tibberton in 2003 after owner Nicola Morris refused permission for the Government to destroy them. She lost the case.

If the application for a warrant is rejected, Ms Qureshi's case could set a precedent for others.

In the past few years, cases of bovine TB have soared in Herefordshire, Worcester-shire, Shropshire and Staffordshire, with the disease costing taxpayers 88 million a year.

Last month the Government announced a new strategy to tackle the rise in TB.

This includes a consultation on the culling of diseased badgers, pre-movement testing of cattle, and changes to the compensation paid to farmers who have animals culled.