8 SEPTEMBER 2020
ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has called for the immediate reconvening of the TB Forum, and for it to be chaired by the Minister. “The TB risk letters debacle is a sign of how the TB Forum has been derailed. It is now essential that Minister McConalogue gets to grips with the TB programme which is at risk of losing all support from farmers,” he said.
Mr Farrell rejected comments from the Department that the move to issue TB Herd History Risk Statements was agreed to at the TB Forum. “The breakdown in TB policy between farmers and officials now needs urgent Ministerial intervention. This is down to the fact that most of the proposals from farmer representatives have been ignored whereas department officials are driving on with dubious actions such as explicit herd categorisation which had been categorically rejected at the Forum.”
“Moreover, it is absurd that the Department now maintain that these letters do not require farmers to do anything when the letter clearly advises farmers to cull cattle. It is obvious the Department know they are on thin ice because their actions go so far beyond what was even discussed, let alone agreed to at the Forum.”
“ICSA also believes that the TB letters are a breach of data protection rules because it is possible in many instances to determine the TB status of a farmer from whom you have bought stock, based on the information set out in the letter.”
Mr Farrell contrasted the implementation of the letter – which was not in a format agreed – with the failure to live up to commitments by the Department. “Even though it was agreed that reactors would always be removed within seven days of agreed valuation, we are still getting reports that this target is not being met consistently. We have also heard of cases of reactor calves being put down (shot) on farms by the knackery services, a practice that has been highlighted in the past by ICSA, and which again is something that must not happen.”
“There are also complaints about how inconclusives are being dealt with. We need a clear message about what protocols apply to inconclusives and this must only apply to current inconclusives. ICSA does not accept that an animal that has subsequently passed one or more tests can still be regarded as inconclusive. Likewise, it does not inspire confidence in testing if we are now being told that an animal that is consistently testing clear should be culled because once upon a time, it was in a herd where there was a reactor.”
“Meanwhile, there is complete frustration about the inadequacies of a badger vaccination programme. Unless we have a commitment to dealing with wildlife spread, that would include deer as well a revised badger culling and testing regime, there is no point in all of these contentious pronouncements and actions by the Department.”