Why Aren’t We Vaccinating Cattle?
Bovine TB – Time for a Rethink
It is chronic and debilitating, it puts farmers out of business and destroys livelihoods. Are we talking about the disease, or the policy to control it?
Under the current UK policy, cattle are tested at regular intervals for exposure to Bovine TB. Those that fail the test are slaughtered and severe restrictions on cattle movement are placed on the farm. This is the ‘test and cull’ regime. It costs taxpayers £100 million a year and has a devastating impact on farmers.
Test and cull requires regular and stressful handling of cattle which compromises both animal welfare and human safety. Compensation does not always cover the value of individual culled animals, and does not cover the consequences of movement restrictions or the loss of critical breeding stock. Even DEFRA describes the diagnostic skin test for Bovine TB as ‘imperfect’ in its ability to correctly identify animals that have been exposed to Bovine TB.
The test and cull policy, we are told, is there to protect human health, animal welfare and to meet our international (EU) commitments. Is it worth the cost?
Human Health: In the UK, human infection with the bacterium responsible for Bovine
TB (Mycobacterium bovis) is almost non-
Animal Health: Infected cattle have little probability of developing the disease and seldom show symptoms during their (often short) economic lives. Bovine TB can remain dormant in an animal for many years or indefinitely. If an animal reacts to the skin test this does not mean that it will go on to develop symptoms, be infectious, or become ill. There are other diseases of cattle that pose a more serious risk to human and animal health yet are not even notifiable. Many are simply vaccinated against.
International Commitments: UK policy is ultimately driven by the EU which requires member states to eradicate Bovine TB. It lays down the means to be used, and does not allow cattle vaccination. Since the BSE ban was lifted, the annual value of live cattle exports from the UK has never exceeded £3.3 million.
What is devastating about Bovine TB is not the disease.
It is the test and cull policy.
As the Bovine TB Advisory Group concluded in its final report to Defra:
“Bovine TB has been a difficult and demanding problem for many years. There are reasons for believing that it can be controlled and finally eradicated but this will require a long-
Can we afford the cost, and will farmers tolerate another 20 years of movement restrictions, inaccurate testing and compulsory cattle culling?
It has been pointed out that other countries with so-
Would it not make sense to vaccinate cattle?
Vaccines can be used for two complementary purposes -
According to DEFRA, a cattle vaccine against Bovine TB will be licensed this year (2012). However, current EU laws do not allow vaccination against Bovine TB. This is because BCG vaccination of cattle can interfere with the skin test, which is the recognised primary test for Bovine TB.
Defra state that they are working with the EU to change EU legislation on cattle vaccination, and on the use of the DIVA test which can differentiate between a vaccinated and an infected animal. They are working towards having the test certified for use at the end of 2012.
It is imperative that the obstacles to vaccinating cattle
against Bovine TB are removed as quickly as possible.
An EU derogation could be obtained to allow the UK to introduce a programme of cattle vaccination against
Bovine TB without further delay.
With thanks to www.rethinkbtb.co.uk
Conservatives Against Fox Hunting working within the Conservative Party to advance animal welfare
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