MP highlights emotional effect of Bovine TB on farming

Speaking in the summer recess adjournment debate, Neil Parish again welcomes measures to tackle Bovine TB and highlights the emotional effect the disease has had on farming.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is great pleasure to speak in this debate about the TB situation in my constituency. I very much welcome the statement made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier today, and I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister here this afternoon. He, too, has put a lot of work into putting proper controls in place to try to eradicate TB eventually.Many people do not realise the emotional effect that this disease has had on farming. Someone who has TB in their cattle is unable to trade, especially in young stock, and it affects their business extremely badly. Where testing of cattle is taking place, someone’s cattle might be grazing in the summer, they bring them inside for the winter, they are tested, some of them prove positive for TB, and they are then culled to take the disease out of their herd. The farmer then puts the rest of the cattle back out in the field the following summer, only for them to be infected by the wildlife, such as badgers, roaming around in the fields. If we are going to test cattle successfully and take out the infected animals, it is absolute nonsense if we do not tackle the problem in wildlife.What I like about what the Secretary of State said this afternoon is that she had consulted everybody properly to get a scientifically backed way of culling badgers, to reduce the reservoir of disease. In the long run the farming industry is losing. Devon alone is losing nearly 2,000 cattle this year. It is terrible because not only are those cattle being lost, but it is very much the heifers, the young stock that are the seedcorn of the dairy industry for the future, that are affected. We want to see excellent milk production and good-quality milk in this country. That can happen only if we have the necessary stock to carry on the dairy industry. Across the country, 10 times as many cattle are now taken with the disease as was the case 10 or 12 years ago. We cannot go on like that, because eventually the industry will be destroyed. This country has such great grass-growing potential, particularly in the west country. The Blackdown hills in Tiverton and Honiton are probably one of the best dairy areas in the country.We must be sure that cattle can be out grazing without being infected with TB. Everybody wants to see cattle out in the fields. That is what people come to Devon to see. This issue affects not only good agricultural production, but the tourism that benefits from the cattle. The last thing we want to do is to shut them up in sheds all summer to keep the badgers out. It is right to tackle the pool of disease, and I welcome the Government proposals. I look forward to the pilot schemes. I suspect that pilots will take place in the west country, possibly in Devon, which is one of the great hot spots. Let us consider how the controlled shooting will work and ensure that we do it humanely, and then we can go forward to an even greater cull.| Hansard