TB vet: ‘It took a year to keep me out of prison and for me to keep my job’

Pioneering vet Dick Sibley thought he would have been lauded after he managed to clear a chronically infected herd of TB in just two years – but instead his radical approach saw him narrowly avoid prison and almost lose his veterinary licence forever.

Sibley made the comments as he addressed the 200-strong crowd at the Pedigree Cattle Trust conference on bovine TB.

The TB Quad System

Dick Sibley had been carrying out clinical trials of his ‘TB quad system’ on two chronically infected farms in England at the time.

The TB Quad System is based on four pillars of disease control: improving biosecurity; surveillance; resilience and immunity; and managing biocontainment.

Sibley is of the view that TB is spread through dung, and tests the dung of infected cattle to detect if the animal is ‘shedding’ and therefore infectious.

His approach also sees him keep records of cattle which showed any lumps during traditional tests. He uses increased monitoring on those animals alongside a badger vaccination programme.

His methods have won the backing of militant animal rights lobbyist and former Queen guitarist Brian May.

‘We’d cracked it – and this is where it all went wrong’

One of the herds Sibley worked with had been under TB restrictions for seven years but managed its first clear skin test just 18 months into the trial.

He said: “Anything that has ever had a lump is categorised as a high-risk cow and we test it every 60 days with phage and faecal tests.

“The numbers were going down and down until November 2016 – around 18 months into the programme when we had our first clear skin test in nearly 10 years.

“We’d cracked it – and this is where it all went wrong – and this is why you must not do this.

I wrote to the chief vet who I had already spoken to about this and said this is what the results are and gave an explanation and he responded very positively by setting the dogs on me.

“It is a criminal offence to test a bovine anywhere in the European Union with a non-approved test; these are non-approved tests.

“I was put in front of a disciplinary panel and it took me a year out – a year of lawyers and various legal people to keep me out of prison and for me to keep my job because I was unwittingly in the middle of this.

“You need a licence – which I now have.”