In response to a parliamentary question on the issue this week he said: “The eradication programme continues to represent a significant cost to the State, notwithstanding the expenditure reductions achieved as result of the lower disease incidence. It is therefore in the interests of all concerned to build on the progress made to work towards eradication of the disease.”
The Minister added that significant improvements in the TB situation in recent years with levels at the lowest since the commencement of the eradication programme in the 1950s.
However he also said: “I fully recognise that, despite the progress made, the disease remains a real problem for those, albeit lower numbers of herd owners, affected.”
The Minister outlined that the Department’s TB Eradication Programme has incorporated a comprehensive badger removal policy since 2004 in response to research conducted over the years by the Department and others which demonstrated that the eradication of the disease is not a practicable proposition until the issue of the reservoir of infection in badgers, which is seeding infection into the cattle population, is addressed.
He said this policy aims to limit the spread of TB infection within badgers and, as a result, their role as a vector of infection to the local cattle population. It is widely recognised among the scientific community that TB is maintained independently in both cattle and badgers that share the same environment and that there is interspecies transmission. This leads to spill back to cattle initiating an outbreak and leading to recurring bovine-to-bovine disease spread within cattle herds.