Department called on to look at Scottish model to eradicate TB

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been called on to look at the TB model in Scotland, which has been free of bovine TB since 2009, with fewer prohibitive controls on farms and no blacklisting of farmers.

Making the calls, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Animal Health Committee chairman Pat Farrell noted:

“For the department to say there are no successful eradication programmes anywhere in the world that don’t use herd risk assessments is simply incorrect.

“Scotland has shown what can be done – and it didn’t involve sending out these types of letters to farmers,” he said.

On the argument that risk categories would be the next logical step, Farrell said there are no scientific papers that show devaluing cattle make them less likely to spread TB.

Farrell questioned whether the TB Herd History Risk Statement letters are “the first step in identifying herds by category in order to prohibit movements with herds of a higher status”.

The chairman said the department “needs to come clean” on how devaluing animals and entire herds can eradicate TB if their objective is not to permanently prohibit trade or only allow limited trading opportunities from these herds.

“Farmers pay €35 million directly each year into the TB programme and they expect a robust testing programme for that, particularly given our export profile,” he said.

“Our testing programme and approved tests are the basis for our access to export markets and are in full compliance with the EU Trade Directives.”

Farrell said for the Department of Agriculture to question the effectiveness of this programme is “irresponsible and potentially damaging for vital export markets which farmers depend on”.

“The IFA will not support a continuous re-run of the TB Forum format that has already failed farmers. The minister needs to take charge of the situation,” he said.