I ENTIRELY agree that the stakeholders, Government, farming industry and envir-onmentalists must work together if bovine TB is to be eliminated.
The Pedigree Cattle Trust has been pursuing this objective ever since its formation.
The objective of any programme has to be clearly set out and it is disappointing to note that the objective in this case has never been embraced wholeheartedly by all of the parties.
The central objective has to be the eradication of the disease in both wildlife and cattle. When all of the parties agree that any programme must have that objective as its core element then we can all move on.
There must be equal emphasis on the eradication of the disease in both wildlife and cattle. The trust has long since promoted the concept of removing wildlife which are infected and vaccinating healthy wildlife. Any programme which stops short of this is, quite frankly, a waste of time.
There is a statutory obligation to test and remove cattle and farmers should be encouraged to comply not only with this regime but also with biosecurity.
There is an obligation on the Government to explain and educate the farming community.
Removal of reactors must be prompt and the basis of such removal should be set out in writing to every affected farmer.
This means that the farmer knows what to expect in relation to the timescale for removal, isolation procedures, disinfection procedures for carriers, completion of any documents and also clear policy statements from the appropriate authority on such issues as removal of animals from very young calves and a clear statement as to the welfare issues consequent to such removal.
The Pedigree Cattle Trust again has stressed the need to address the issue of slurry. There are absolutely no reasons why all slurry should not be treated and that a requirement to treat slurry should not be incorporated in farm quality assurance schemes.
In addition to the TB problem there is an increasing problem with botulism. Once again there should be a very strict requirement that all poultry litter should be subject to compulsory regulation as to its disposal and storage pending disposal.
The Northern Ireland Audit Office is quite rightly concerned with the cost to the public purse but the cost to the farming community in consequential loss and stress is a multiple of that cost.
The time has long since passed for more discussions, more consultations, more expert reports and more indecision.
It is simply not acceptable that there are some political difficulties which are outside the control of the farming community. If all the stakeholders are agreed on an objective and set out an agreed programme for achieving that objective then it is a matter of addressing how the cost of meeting that objective can be achieved.
It is the lack of a clear determination to achieve that objective that is threatening the future of the cattle industry.
Chairman, Pedigree Cattle Trust