Cattle testing positive for Bovine TB are to be DNA tagged to further strengthen controls preventing spread of the disease.
Evidence is emerging 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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Bovine TB Eradication Group for England (TBEG) said:
“We are appalled at this emerging evidence of TB reactor fraud, and we strongly condemn any such behaviour. We urge the farming industry and the veterinary profession to continue to work together with the Government on the swift and decisive action announced today.
“We have given clear advice on what measures should be put in place quickly to tackle the problem. This suspected fraudulent behaviour by a few farmers should not be allowed to unfairly damage the reputation of the responsible majority or to undermine the TB control regime.”