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October 8 2009 ~ The TB Eradication Group for England presented its Progress Report to stakeholders today.


Developing a Bovine TB Eradication Programme for England

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. The Bovine TB Eradication Group for England was established by the Government, the farming industry and the veterinary profession in November 2008 to make recommendations to the Secretary of State on bovine TB and its eradication. This report presents the progress we, as the Group, have made in developing a Bovine TB Eradication Programme for England; the risk-based approach we are taking in identifying and assessing new policies; and changes that are being made following recommendations we have made to the Secretary of State.

 2. Bovine TB is complex: it is a chronic disease, and it takes time for any new measures introduced to lead to a reduction in disease prevalence. An eradication programme is an investment in maintaining trade in cattle and dairy products and protecting public health, but the cost and effort involved should not be underestimated and the timescales for delivering results will be lengthy. This is why we have made short term measures for reducing the impact of TB restrictions on farmers one of our more immediate priorities.

3. There is no single measure which will achieve the eradication of bovine TB. We will need to have in place and use a range of tools: effective diagnostic tests; targeted cattle controls; and vaccination for badgers and cattle; and to remain open to the possibility of using badger culling. These tools need to be used in a targeted way to reflect disease risk so we have a proactive approach rather than continuing to play catch-up as we are with the current testing regime. We have defined five areas (high risk; edges of high risk; medium; declining and low risk areas) as a basis for considering and targeting different measures effectively.

4. This report is a base from which we can move forward. We have agreed with the Secretary of State a series of changes that should be implemented, and some of these have already been introduced.

5. The recommendations which have already been implemented are designed to assist farmers under TB restriction to maintain their businesses. These are:

i. Subject to a veterinary risk assessment, the general movement licence can be used to allow movements of unrestricted cattle on to a TB breakdown herd for the duration of a breakdown. This is a change from the previous approach where a new license was required for each movement.

ii. Movement of cattle to/from breakdown herds will be permitted over longer distances to help facilitate restocking. This is of particular benefit to owners of pedigree and/or organic cattle who can find it difficult to find the right replacement cattle.

 iii. Movement of untested calves (aged under 42 days) direct to slaughter via approved collection centres will be permitted, so reducing the number that have to be killed on-farm.

 6. These initial changes are small in the wider context of bovine TB. However, they are a start and go some way to reducing bureaucracy for those under restriction and streamlining processes for Animal Health. The measures that will be introduced over the coming months will go further and be targeted both at improving disease control and at helping TB affected farm businesses.

7. The most significant changes we have agreed with the Secretary of State are to change the areas on which testing frequencies are set and an interim approach to setting testing frequencies which will be implemented in the coming months. We also recommended and agreed that England‟s approach to inconclusive reactors needed to comply with European legislation and we have agreed that the policy will be changed to allow only one retest from 1 January 2010. The other recommendations we have made and Hilary Benn has agreed should be implemented are:

 i. Providing advice on bovine TB to restricted farms (implementation from early 2010);

 ii. Providing a dispersal sale option for owners of TB breakdown herds (implementation by the end of 2009);

 iii. Revise testing requirements for entry to and within Approved Finishing Units (AFUs) thereby encouraging more to be set up (implementation by the end of October 2009);

iv. Encourage the setting up of more "quarantine units‟ as a trade outlet for calves currently killed on farm (implementation by the end of 2009); and

v. Providing greater flexibility on the timing of short interval tests in breakdown herds in high risk areas (implementation by the end of October 2009).

 

8. In addition to the changes discussed above we have also agreed, in principle, with the Secretary of State that we need to find a new approach to tackling unconfirmed breakdowns; and, in order to overcome some of the confusion around TB controls, that the terminology around breakdowns will be changed.

9. We are confident that the changes described in this report represent a positive first step in the development of an Eradication Programme for England. However, the Group also recognises that real progress towards eradication for those in high risk areas can only be made once measures are in place to tackle disease in wildlife on a large scale. In their absence, we see the additional support to farm businesses under restriction as crucial.

10. We are pleased to be able to say that the UK Eradication Plan for 2010 was submitted to the Commission in September 2009 and, while the material covering England within the Plan only represents a small part of what we want to achieve as a Group, we believe it sets a good foundation for the industry in England and the Government to work with colleagues in Europe by making clear to the Commission and other Member States that England (and the UK) are serious about tackling bovine TB. Eradication Plans have to be submitted annually and we aim to play a similarly active role in the future.

11. We plan to continue making recommendations and push for measures to be implemented as they are ready. However, as we move forward, it will be important for us to have more opportunities to discuss progress and ideas with those most affected. So, following publication of this report, we plan to meet regularly (approximately every six months) with representatives from key organisations rather than produce regular reports. We would also encourage those wishing to present ideas or discuss issues to contact us at tberadication.group@defra.gsi.gov.uk