NFU says badger cull is still vital

CATTLE vaccine should be part of a package of measures to help control bovine TB in the future, but the National Farmers union says a workable vaccine remains many years away.

The statement comes after news reports on a ‘breakthrough’ in cattle vaccine for TB which has been developed by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency.

The breakthrough talked about is the diva test, which will be able to help differentiate between a vaccinated cow and a cow that has TB. This is one of the main stumbling blocks to a cattle vaccination programme. The diva test report has been with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate since January and is still being evaluated.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “What concerns me most is that after today there could be more confusion about what is already a highly complex situation. We need a package of measures to tackle TB and yes, cattle vaccine must be one of them. But as Defra’s chief vet Nigel Gibbens said cattle vaccine, and the tests and regulations needed to put it in place across Europe, ‘may take years’. In the meantime, the spread of TB is doubling every nine years.

“TB is one of the main problems facing our dairy and beef farmers today and all of the scientific reports to date tell us that no one measure alone is going to combat TB.

“So while no-one wants to cull badgers this policy does have to include tackling TB in badgers because badger vaccination alone will not be enough; it will not cure a badger that already has TB. No other country in the world has ever got on top of TB without also tackling the disease in its wildlife carrier and breaking the cycle of reinfection.

“This TB eradication package also includes strict biosecurity on farms, tight cattle movement controls, a tough cattle TB testing regime and a cull policy that sees all cattle that test positive for TB being slaughtered. This meant losing more than 34,000 cattle across Great Britain last year alone to this disease.

“We must also remember that studies so far have shown that the cattle vaccine itself is not 100 per cent effective.”