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Farmers spreading TB – Fraud investigation launched

11/04/2011 12:40:10

Badgers may be culled while a few farmers committing fraud.

Investigation underway
April 2011. Evidence has emerged that some cattle farmers in the South West and Midlands may have been illegally swapping cattle ear tags. That means they may have been retaining TB-positive animals in their herds and sending less productive animals to slaughter in their place. Retaining cattle that test positive for TB on a farm increases the risk of spread of TB to other herds and wildlife.

And in at least one in Cornwall one animal under TB restrictions was subsequently shown at an agricultural show in Warwickshire, potentially spreading the disease to all the other cows and herds at that show.

DNA tagging
In response, DEFRA have announced that cattle testing positive for Bovine TB are to be DNA tagged to further strengthen controls preventing spread of the disease.

To strengthen deterrents, from mid-April cattle testing positive for TB will immediately be tagged and a sample of its DNA retained by Animal Health. These samples will then be cross-checked at random, or where fraud is suspected, against the DNA of animals sent to slaughter.

UK Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, said: "I am absolutely appalled any farmer would deliberately break the law in this way. The vast majority of farmers with TB in their herds are doing the right thing, and it's reprehensible that anyone should be trying to get around the tough measures that are helping to control TB in cattle. Anyone doing this sort of thing will be caught and have the book thrown at them.

"We are introducing this extra safeguard to minimise spread of this devastating disease to other herds and wildlife."

Alleged fraud
The alleged evidence of fraud has emerged from an investigation instigated by Gloucestershire Trading Standards, which reviewed TB cattle sent to two slaughterhouses. Investigations are now ongoing there and at slaughterhouses in the South West and Midlands.

Badger Trust
The Badger Trust states "DEFRA's sudden, massive and expensive response to the scandal of farmers switching ear tags to foil bovine TB (bTB) controls suggests these crimes are widespread rather than local."

Potentially widespread
"Claims by agriculture industry organisations that only "some" farmers were involved are clearly optimistic with the Midlands and the South West already implicated."

"The Badger Trust has written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and James Paice, Minister of State (Agriculture and Food) to demand answers."

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