126 cows slaughtered in Forest of Dean after contracting TB
THE devastating effect of bovine TB was felt by one Forest of Dean farmer after 126 of his cattle were slaughtered.
Jim Hunt, who farms around 700 acres producing milk, beef and crops, at Plusterwine House Farm in Woolaston, saw his herd decimated due to the disease this week.
A total of 27 animals were taken to Ensors in Cinderford on Tuesday for slaughter, while a further 62 cows and calves were shot at the farm last week. This was in addition to the killing of more than 30 animals previously.
It is believed the outbreak of bovine TB has cost his business tens of thousands of pounds.
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A pilot cull of badgers in the county has been given the go-ahead by Natural England in a move which has divided public opinion.
Some believe the action will minimise the spread of TB in cattle, while others challenge there is no scientific evidence to back that up and are vehemently against a cull.
Mr Hunt is for the badger cull and feels the disease needs to be nullified as soon as possible.
Farmer Steve Jones, from The Pludds in the Forest of Dean, who has 35 years of experience managing cattle herds, is anti-cull but agrees the TB disease needs to be addressed urgently – at the very highest level.
He said: “My thoughts are with the farmer, this is simply devastating. There needs to be a Parliamentary debate about TB, and soon. If we get rid of the badgers it will be a bad decision, it will wreak havoc with their population.”
Mr Jones has also questioned the validity of some of the TB tests being done.
He added: “I know of farmers whose cattle have undergone skin tests to identify TB, they have then been slaughtered, and afterwards the tests have returned negative. This needs to be debated quickly.”
Government agency Natural England announced last month it had provisionally licensed trained marksmen to carry out “controlled shooting” of badgers in Gloucestershire.
The cull was announced after campaigners lost a fight in the High Court.
The cull zone covers around 116sq miles of West Gloucestershire countryside and could see at least 3,000 badgers killed.
Meanwhile, an online Government petition against the cull, championed by Queen guitarist Brian May, has grown rapidly with more than 144,000 people signing it in three weeks.
James Wakeley, secretary for the Forest of Dean National Farmers Union (NFU) has echoed Mr Jones’ sentiments regarding the urgency in addressing the disease.
He said: “This is the latest case in a long line of significant losses that local farmers have suffered due to TB.
“It is a complete tragedy for the farm, witnessing the destruction of so many young animals must have been extraordinarily distressing and very brutally demonstrates the problems caused by this disease.
“The scale of loss clearly highlights the desperate need to tackle TB as a matter of urgency wherever it is found.”
The pilot cull will allow farmers to shoot up to 70 per cent of badgers in the designated area. A long-term study has found culling over a number of years on a large scale could reduce the incidence of TB in cattle by 16 per cent.