Animal Aid

Bovine TB: Farmers to Blame

Posted 23 October 2007

Government chief scientist Sir David King’s call for a badger cull to curb bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle is an attempt to appease a powerful and irresponsible farming lobby, which refuses to accept responsibility for the disease outbreaks that are a direct consequence of modern industrial farming methods.

Bovine TB is caused and spread by the often filthy, crowded and poorly ventilated conditions in which cows are kept, and by the increasingly intensive regimes to which the animals are subjected. A recently published Animal Aid report and supporting undercover footage revealed that many dairy cows are now virtually permanently confined in crowded sheds under a system known as ‘zero grazing’. The evidence demonstrates that these ‘battery cows’ are prone to increasing levels of a range of infectious diseases.

The government-appointed Independent Scientific Group (ISG) announced in June – after a decade of research – that killing badgers will not reduce bovine TB and could make matters worse. Thirty thousand badgers have been destroyed since 1975 in a failed attempt to curb the disease. And despite virtually exterminating badgers from four counties in Ireland, a massive bTB problem remains in each of those areas. Animal Aid agrees with the author of the ISG report, Prof John Bourne, that King’s statement was more in line ‘with the political need to do something’.

Director of Animal Aid, Andrew Tyler, says:

‘Once again, a reckless and greedy farming industry is holding the government hostage. It blames everyone except itself for a range of devastating disease outbreaks now afflicting farmed animals. They include bird flu, salmonella, campylobacter, BSE, Foot & Mouth, swine fever and bovine TB itself. The government should force farmers to recognise that, when animals are treated as reproducible and disposable objects, large-scale disease will follow. Instead, the government succumbs to the industry’s demands for publicly-financed compensation packages.’

The recent public consultation on the merits of a badger cull produced a decisive verdict: the public overwhelmingly opposed such a slaughter. Now, the government has been taken aback by the negative early response to David King’s statement and has indicated that no imminent decision on a cull will be taken.

Animal Aid urges the public to continue to voice its clear opposition to the proposed bloodletting that would be devoid of any moral or scientific rationale.

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