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BVA response to The Independent letter on bovine TB

05 Jun 2013

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Responding to the letter from a group of veterinary surgeons published in The Independent, Peter Jones, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“The BVA has been developing policy on bovine TB eradication for many years, and our view has always taken account of the available science. Like the signatories to the letter we too are absolutely committed to animal health and welfare and as veterinary surgeons we believe that effective measures to eradicate endemic disease are an integral part of that commitment.

We want to see healthy cattle and healthy badgers and we have been insistent that measures to control bovine TB in wildlife must be humane. That is why we are supporting the pilot culls. We know that culling badgers reduces the incidence of bovine TB in cattle  but we need to be reassured that the proposed method  of controlled shooting is humane, safe and effective.

The pilot culls have been designed to be as humane as possible, with trained marksmen and detailed guidance on which types of gun and ammunition may be used, but the methods need to be tested in the field so, as scientists, we have to support the pilots. We also called for the Independent Panel of Experts to assess the humaneness of the pilots.

“We are the largest veterinary membership organisation in the UK and our remit is to represent the views of our members. We do accept that not every member will agree or have an opinion on every BVA policy, but through our committee system and Council, which includes elected representatives from every region of the UK, we are able to give every member a voice.

The majority of the signatories are not BVA members and would therefore not have had the opportunity to take part in the policy-making process. We therefore respect their right to distance themselves from BVA policy on bovine TB but do not accept their criticism of the way in which it was reached.

“Members of our profession are battling daily against bovine TB working alongside farmers to advise on better biosecurity and carrying out TB tests on cattle. Members outside of the endemic areas do not want the disease to reach their areas and support action to help us control TB. We believe the current policy is science-led and is part of a holistic eradication policy.

We support the strong cattle measures in place and the use of badger vaccination, but they are not enough. We are all working towards a cattle vaccine but that is still many years away. Our support for the badger cull was not taken lightly but it was taken with the primacy of animal health and welfare and scientific evidence in mind.”

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