Bishop urges Government to stamp out bovine TB to protect rural economy

The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, has called on the Government to take immediate action to stamp out bovine TB to protect Devon s rural economy.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, has called on the Government to take immediate action to stamp out bovine TB to protect Devon's rural economy.

In a joint letter, signed by other leaders from the county to Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Bishop backs calls for urgent action to halt the spread of the disease 'before we see livestock disappearing from our countryside'.

The rate of bovine TB has increased dramatically in recent years. Latest estimated figures from Defra suggest there were 824 incidents of the disease in herds in the county last year* and 6.358 cattle were slaughtered. In 2007 there were 782 incidents and 5.388 cattle were slaughtered as a result. In 2006 there were 648 incidents in herds and 4,471 animals slaughtered. This increase is 'causing misery and distress to thousands of farming families and bringing many to the edge of despair' the letter says. It also demonstrates that the current strategy of managing the disease is simply not working.

The letter continues: "At a time when there is growing concern about food security we simply cannot afford to go on killing productive cattle at a cost of millions of pounds to the taxpayer, and posing a very real threat to the future viability of the County's beef and dairy industry. Such livestock is not only used for food production but is invaluable in the management of the countryside and upland areas, both for biodiversity and as a vital component of tourism in the county."


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It concludes: "The present situation is unsustainable in terms of welfare, financial cost and the medium term impact on the countryside and the rural economy more generally. We urge you to take immediate and decisive action, Devon simply cannot wait any longer."

The letter has been signed by John Lee, of Devon County Agricultural Association, Louise Twigg, principal of Bicton College, and Professor Michael Winter of Exeter University, amongst other signatories.

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