Radical thinking required to eradicate bovine TB, says UFU

Thursday, 8 February, 2018

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says radical and ground-breaking thinking is needed on all sides to rid Northern Ireland of bovine TB. This call for a new approach was made after a lengthy consultation with UFU members on DAERA’s proposals to tackle the disease

The consultation was around DAERA's plan to implement some of the recommendations of the TB Strategic Partnership Group.  UFU president, Barclay Bell, said members were ready to back some of the thinking but not all. “TB has plagued the countryside for over 60 years and we are no closer towards eradication. This is despite huge efforts by industry and government to control it and costing both farmers and taxpayers millions of pounds annually. Incidences of bovine TB have reached their highest level in ten years and farmers are beyond frustration. Something has to change.”

While there was a range of views on the ways ahead, one message from UFU members across Northern Ireland was crystal clear. “Tackling TB in wildlife, the other major element of the continuation of this disease, must be a top priority - and it must be done in a meaningful and robust way. We cannot accept any changes on compensation or testing when DAERA is only taking tough action on one side of the TB equation.”

The UFU fully recognises that in a difficult financial climate, government departments, including DAERA, are facing significant budget cuts. “We are realistic and know funding is tight. It is likely DAERA will be doing less, when we need them to do more. We have stepped up with a ground-breaking self-help solution, in the shape of a proposed bovine disease levy,” said Mr Bell.

In its consultation response, the UFU has suggested the establishment of a statutory/compulsory levy, controlled by farmers and held by an industry body such as Animal Health and Welfare NI. This would help to address bovine TB, with the initial focus specifically on tackling TB in the wildlife reservoir.  “We believe this is the fairest and fastest way to see action where it is needed,” said Mr Bell adding, “Everyone’s ultimate goal is to have healthy cattle and healthy wildlife. All our members are in agreement that radical and ground-breaking measures are required on all sides. The countryside can no longer be held to ransom by this disease,” said Mr Bell.

READ - UFU response to DAERA consultation on TBSPG's recommendations for eradicating bTB in Northern Ireland