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Bovine TB

Volume 573: debated on Thursday 9 January 2014

Between January and September 2013, 24,618 cattle were compulsorily slaughtered as reactors or direct contacts in Great Britain. That is an average of more than 90 cattle a day. In Staffordshire over the same period, 2,245 cattle were slaughtered for TB control purposes.

Each one of those instances is a tragedy. Farmers in Burton, Uttoxeter and across the country are having their lifetime’s work destroyed by this disease. Does the Secretary of State share my concern that the Opposition seem to criticise constantly the work to tackle this disease, while having no plans of their own and offering no support to my farmers?

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend’s comments, particularly as my constituency is so close to his. Having got this disease down to 0.01% in 1972 when we had a bipartisan approach—in those days, there was absolute unity on the need to bear down on the disease in cattle and in wildlife—it is tragic that we let that go. Since then, 305,000 perfectly healthy cattle have been hauled off to slaughter at a cost of £500 million. If we do not get a grip on this, as my hon. Friend says, we are heading for a bill of £1 billion. We just wish that we could get back to that bipartisan approach, which has been endorsed by every other country I cited in my previous answer.

TB is causing chaos in the county of Monmouthshire. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need a completely open-minded and united approach? If culling works, then all sides of the House should support it. If it does not work, after we have seen the independent survey, we should unite in supporting an alternative.

I have to respect the rules of devolution and the Welsh Government are pursuing a vaccination policy. Our belief is that vaccination is, sadly, expensive and pointless on diseased animals. There is an interesting role for ring vaccination once the pool of disease has been reduced, and I think we can probably learn from both areas.