DUP man criticises poor DARD performance on Bovine TB…

Not trying to add to the giddy zephyrs of pure conjecture, or anything, but I was struck by a presser from Paul Frew yesterday which took the DRD to task for dithering over how to deal with Bovine TB.

In it he says:

There is no doubt that Bovine TB cannot be attributed to a single factor, but we cannot escape the fact either that every country which has successfully tackled this disease has put a focus on the reservoir of infection amongst wildlife.

In the Republic of Ireland we have seen action taken and now in England we have seen the start of a cull there. However, DARD’s approach all too often has simply been to call for further research and study. Only after sustained pressure by the Agriculture Committee did the Minister finally announce some progress towards tackling the disease, but the progress on taking this forward is very slow.

There can be no doubt that a multi-faceted approach will be necessary to tackle Bovine TB, but we are still waiting for the TVR (Test, Vaccinate and Release) model to deal with the disease.

Pete wrote a great round up of what’s not happening here, and what is happening elsewhere on this island last summer… A year later, nothing.

Just to note that it is highly unusual for OFMdFM parties to criticise each other’s ministers in public. They usually round on the other smaller parties on their own side. As a result an awful lot of poor to mediocre performances in government goes unreported in the mainstream press.

Is there something wrong lads?

  • Braid man

    I live in the townland of Brocklamont. Brock is the local term for badger. The badger and cattle have co-existed here since cattle were domesticated. No TB.

  • I think….for the moment at least …youre reading too much into it.
    When a MLA goes public with a big statement, it is usually because it has brought to his attention by an affected constituent.
    Paul Frew is a “rural” MLA and on the DRD Committee (Chair??). it follows that the whole Bovine TB thing would be of interest to him. And he is legitimately expressing a degree of concern/frustration.
    I dont know enough about him to factor in his broader political outlook…where he stands on DUP-SF or even how he stands in DUP power plays.
    But I take it as a MLA doing his job, until theres a whiff of co-ordination about it all.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m reading into the longer context FJH, not just the statement… In fact now you mention it, the minister’s in action seems stranded between two sets of powerful lobbyists…

    When in doubt, do nothing…

  • Rory Carr

    It is probably the same problem facing politicians in NI as in England – in farming constituencies the pressure is to cull badgers, in urban communities the Bambi factor tends to dominate and there an MP would only support culling in peril of his seat.

    But even in farming constituencies, where agribusiness dominates and the populace are ever more indistinguishable in attitudes from their urban cousins and the fleeting popular “moral” positions of the day increasingly flourish, the hardline agricultural lobby are facing opposition.

    It is not easy being a badger in the 21st century, but it is becoming easier, courtesy of Walt Disney.

  • FDM

    It really is very simple. The Veterinary Science Division will have the details of whether or not there is a rise in Bovine TB problems.

    All such cases have to be reported to them I understand. I believe they are collated.

    What do the stats say? Is there an increasing problem or not?

  • Delphin
  • Charles_Gould

    A tad ironic if Sinn Féin feels a badger cull would be too unpopular.

  • David Crookes

    Badgers – YouTube

    Copy and paste.

  • runepig

    DARD’s approach all too often has simply been to call for further research and study.

    The DUP : Saying NO to research and study since 1971!

  • son of sam

    Who is actually in control in D A R D?Is it the Minister or her civil servants.Do Sinn Fein have a policy on badger culls?

  • Delphin

    I find it strange that the minister does not accept the results of this Irish study used to inform Irish policy on bovine tb. Badger culling as part of their control strategy has resulted in falling tb numbers, whereas NI now has the highest rates of TB in cattle in the British Isles.
    Two of the study sites were in Ulster – Monaghan and Donegal, so close enough to NI to be directly applicable.

  • Barnshee

    “Who is actually in control in D A R D?Is it the Minister or her civil servants.Do Sinn Fein have a policy on badger culls?”

    In general the “mandarin class” (Such as it is in NI) is in charge The minister is a political appointee a– brief glimpse at the nest of vipers that is Stormont will show that qualifications let alone appropriate qualifications are in short supply.

    The minster will come with the “baggage” politically appropriate to the wishes of their party. They will have a wish/desire to promote their particular “baggage”.. The mandarin class -self serving ,unprincipled and wholly lacking in moral fibre- will toady to the minister-whilst at the same time “advise”–highlighting the barriers and costs to implementing the “baggage”.

    The mandarin will have one eye on a leg up or gong (or both) and another on the possible ministerial succession-when a whole new baggage will arrive. The minister who tries to create a more pliable mandarin class will

    1 run out of time
    2 run into delay and obfuscation
    3 employment legislation.

    Then it musical chairs with only the mandarin class remaining seated – Its nor unique to NI

    Hang on in there- another poor performing Department will be along soon

  • I remember reading an article about 30 years or so ago (sorry can’t remember the source) which argued convincingly (well, to me) that it wasn’t badgers who were infecting cattle but that it was the other way round. Makes sense; there are many more cows etc than there are badgers. Money rules, however; blame the badgers, put a bounty on them and go bang bang.

  • Seamuscamp

    Mister Joe

    Your memory is correct – the argument is that tb passes from cattle to badgers who then spread the infection. The research in the UK which looked at the possible vectors for TB in cattle came to the conclusion that culling badgers might reduce the incidence of bovine TB by about 20%; but only if culling was conducted appropriately ie by trapping and killing. The current debacle in England is not being done that way. Lord Krebs, the eminent scientist who carried out the official study, opposes culling on grounds of ineffectiveness.

    The fact that farmers believe that badgers are to blame for the spread of TB is somewhat selfservng. The areas of England with the heaviest TB burden are exactly those with the highest stocking rates – so it might well be that the reason for the growth in infection is that there are too many cattle in close proximity. Don’t forget, when foot-and-mouth was the problem the farming community laid the blame on walkers and tourists when it was their own practices at fault.

    Culling badgers is not intended to wipe out bovine tb, just reduce it. It is not science-led; it is politics-led.

  • Minister and DARD officials brief CARD – 03 July 2012.

    DARD updates CARD – 25 June 2013

    Other briefings are listed on the CARD minutes of evidence webpage.

    The SDLP’s Joe Byrne made three interesting points towards the end of the June 2013 exchange:

    1. There are some stark facts that we will have to examine. We have spent £317 million in 15 years. Five years ago, we had the incidence down to below 4%. Currently, it is running at over 8%.

    2. Scotland is a pretty close neighbour with pretty much the same sort of farming system as we have. Is it a fact that Scotland enjoys disease-free status and therefore has under 2% incidence? Can anybody confirm that? Surely, we should be carrying out some sort of comparative with Scotland to find out how it has reached the state of 2% incidences and disease-free status. We should maybe consider, Chairman, writing to the corresponding Committee for an update on what it has done and achieved and how it has got to the stage that it has.

    3. The Minister is no more technically, intellectually or scientifically competent than us.

    Is there a link between our second bout of devolution and the doubling of incidences of TB bovine breakdown? Is there a case to be made for the culling of MLAs and/or civil servants? 😉

  • son of sam

    At least the Ministers Press Office seems to be earning its keep.M/s O.’Neill rarely misses a photo opportunity whether it be County Agricultural shows,or G A A centre of excellence at Garvaghey .There seems to be plenty of style but perhaps not so much substance .One also wonders whether the mooted move of D A R D headquarters to Ballykelly is a totally disinterested initiative on Sinn Fein’s part!

  • JR

    we have had a badger set on our farm for at least 30 years, have never had a problem with bovine tb in our herd. thats just my experiance,

    btw Braid man, Broc is the Irish word for Badger.

  • ppending

    Here’s what’s really happening with bovine TB in Ireland http://www.badgersni.org.uk/tbireland.html

  • Medillen

    For all you knee jerk critics of SF who have not a clue about this issue (Mick), Michelle O Neill has actually instigated a unique approach to tackling the TB and badger problem that has been in stalemate between opposing views for years. It is called test,vaccinate, release (TVR). In other words in test areas 100kms in area badgers are captured, tested for TB, if positive removed, if negative vaccinated an released. This has never been tried before and is an innovative alternative to a cull which is supported by farmers and animal rights groups. Therefore no controversy little media focus = ignorance

  • Barnshee

    “Michelle O Neill has actually instigated a unique approach to tackling the TB and badger problem that has been in stalemate between opposing views for year”

    Sound excellent- any links to detail or progress?

  • Medillen
  • Delphin

    This is another view on vaccination.
    Looks like it has been considered in GB, and yet the badger cull is already going ahead.

  • Pete Baker


    Have a look at my post from a year ago on the problems with that ‘innovative’ approach – Bovine TB and badgers: “This approach has not been tried anywhere else…”. And why others have considered, and rejected, it.

    And what have DRD done in the meantime? Identified two test areas in which they will conduct a survey of badger setts. To provide data, on badger numbers, for the design of any eventual trial. No testing for TB, removing or vaccinating, btw.

    Still no word on the development of the essential, for that ‘innovative’ approach, reliable quick TB test either…

    And in Wales, they’re in year 2 of a 5 year programme of vaccinations in an “intensive action area”.

    At the Royal Welsh Show last month, Wales’ chief vet admitted the badger vaccination programme is expensive – at more than £600 per badger – and that there is no proof yet that vaccination works.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I wouldn’t have expected too many badgers, or for that matter cows, in Brocklamont or Galgorm Parks that border that townland Braid man, now if you had said Aughafatten or Teenies then I would have tended to believe you.

    The argument that cows give the badgers TB is a rather silly one. It is clear that they are cross infecting and so it makes sense to kill the badger and stop this reservoir of disease to continue reinfecting.

  • …so it makes sense to kill the badger..</i?

    Why? Don't badgers deserve to live like other creatures such as cows and humans? Or does it mean that humans and their wealth is so much more important than other animals and it is totally acceptable to eliminate the ones that bother us in the slightest?

  • Delphin

    Below is a view from the VAWM, they represent vets working in the agricultural sector. Note that badgers with TB suffer a slow and painful death.

    The problem is two fold:
    1. Since the badger was made a protected species in 1973 the population has been expanding out of control until it is now a serious agricultural and domestic pest in many parts of the country simply from the damage that it does by digging.
    2. A large proportion of badgers, up to 30% in some areas in the SW and W.Midlands, are endemically infected with bovine TB and excreting vast numbers of infectious tubercle bacilli into the agricultural environment.
    This combination has led to a steep rise in the incidence of TB reactors in cattle, up 18-20% year on year since 1986 and the rate is still rising and spreading in parallel with the expanding badger population.
    The badger, a species without natural predators, is a classic example of a population out of control.
    Badgers suffer a painful and protracted death from TB. They also suffer from the adverse effects of overpopulation, namely loss of territory, fighting, wounding, road accidents, lack of food, starvation.
    The badger population urgently needs to be brought under control for the sake of the badgers themselves, cattle and cattle farmers, other wildlife e.g. ground nesting birds and not least because of the hazard from TB to man and other wild and domestic animals.
    For more information on the subject including:
    All the scientific evidence since 1971 when bovine TB was first discovered in badgers and the subsequent field trials at Thornbury, Steeple Leaze, the Hartland peninsular, East Offaly and most recently the Irish Four Counties Trial point to the badger as the major wildlife reservoir for bovine TB.
    The Krebs report concluded in 1997 that the evidence linking badgers to the spread of bovine TB was compelling
    Failure to control TB in badgers has inevitably resulted in spill over into other wild life
    Nationwide control of the badger population by farmers and local landowners should immediately be implemented
    Vaccination of cattle and badgers is not a realistic proposition in the short term for controlling TB
    Strategic culling of badgers in areas of endemic infection is the only realistic method of controlling the disease in both badgers and cattle


  • Coll Ciotach

    Yes – they do deserve to live – but not in pain or to the endangerment to human life that ensues without proper controls. Time some people snap out of Bambi mode. Perhaps the sanitoriums filled with consumptive people will make them see common sense. But in todays crazy world and seeing some of the posts here I think some would put the diseased animal before people

  • Barnshee

    “Yes – they do deserve to live – but not in pain or to the endangerment to human life that ensues without proper controls.”

    Has the human not made a big enough shitehole of the earth without abusing the animal world any further.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Change starts with yourself Barnshee