Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Monday, 26 November 2012

Report on Bovine Tuberculosis

Bovine Tuberculosis continued to be the most costly animal problem, the agriculture minister said on 26 November 2012.

Michelle O'Neill said the eradication of the disease among cattle was not something that would happen quickly.

She was responding to the Agriculture Committee's report on bovine TB.

It was brought forward by its chairman Paul Frew who said it was a "serious problem for herd health".

Mr Frew of the DUP said there were signs that the disease was taking a much firmer hold in Northern Ireland and the Department of Agriculture (DARD) had said it was unsure why there had been an increase.

He said the committee had examined scientific evidence which showed that badgers were in some way responsible.

However, the North Antrim MLA said members had raised concerns around the testing kits used on badgers as tests had shown they only picked up 50% of infected animals.

In a statement to the House of Commons on 23 October 2012, Westminster Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, told MPs that plans to cull thousands of badgers in an attempt to tackle the disease in cattle would be delayed until next summer.

Mr Frew added that in 15 years up to March 2011, the disease had cost £317m.

UUP Roy Beggs said this was "a huge sum of public money". He said that the disruption caused by testing cattle had cost an estimated further £200m.

He also added that he believed there was a "lack of urgency in tackling the disease".

Kieran McCarthy of the Alliance Party said he wanted the minister to announce a timeframe for the work highlighted within the committee report to be carried out.

"I am not convinced that the badger is 100% solely to blame for the scourge," he said.

The TUV's Jim Allister said it was "hard to escape the conclusion that this has been six decades of failure in relation to tackling this".

Joe Byrne of the SDLP said "no real control management has yet been exercised".

The motion, which asked for support for the committee report, was passed on an oral vote.


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