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RCVS acknowledges members' TB letter to DEFRA

25 February 2005

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is aware of the open letter which has been sent to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about bovine tuberculosis. 

The letter was not sent on behalf of RCVS, even though it was signed by a number of its members.  (Any veterinary surgeon who wishes to practise in the UK must be a Member or Fellow of the College, which regulates the veterinary profession.)

The RCVS does, however, share the concern set out in the letter that effective steps should be taken to control the disease. In May 2004 the RCVS said, in response to the Government's consultation on a new GB strategy for bovine tuberculosis:

"Fresh thinking is very necessary in the face of the exponential spread of the disease. Bringing it under control presents a special challenge, because since the mid-1980s Ministers seem not to have been willing to countenance effective action to deal with the obvious cause.

"Successive scientific reviews have concluded that badgers constitute a signficant wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis, and the Krebs report of 1997 advised that the evidence strongly supported the view that in Britain badgers were a significant source of infection in cattle. The report acknowledged that the evidence was indirect but said that 'in total the available evidence, including the effects of completely removing badgers from certain areas, is compelling'.

"Professor Godfray's report recommends that policy should be 'based on the assumption that badgers are involved in disease transmission as a wildlife reservoir'. This is no surprise in view of the major growth in the badger population in recent decades, the susceptibility of badgers to the disease as a result of their way of life, and the lack of any cheap or simple means of preventing transmission between badgers and cattle."

The response went on to say:

"Ever since the [Randomised Badger Culling Trial] was set in hand it has been cited as a reason for taking no new steps to bring the disease under control. Professor Godfray's report now advises that the formulation of policy should not wait until the end of the trial. 

"It is time for the Government and the devolved administrations to grasp the nettle and authorise effective action to stop transmission from wildlife."

The RCVS looks forward to the publication of the Government's new strategy.

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