‘DARD must strengthen resolve on TB’ – Irwin
Newry & Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin has said the Department of Agriculture must strengthen its resolve if TB is to be effectively tackled. Irwin recently took part in a visit to England as part of a DARD Committee delegation to meet key figures involved in the fight against TB in mainland Britain.
The visit included meetings with DEFRA representatives, the Food and Environment Research Agency, Gloucester Wildlife Trust and the National Farmers Union, which Mr Irwin described as “worthwhile”, adding that the information gained from the trip will feed in to the Committee’s work on the issue.
Irwin said: “This was a useful and worthwhile trip and it was good to get the wide range of perspectives on the TB control issue. As I have said all along the issue of TB is not something that can be dodged or simply reacted to on the hop. DARD under the stewardship of Minister O’Neill, must be proactive and the desire must be present to go ‘all out’ to bring this costly disease under control. I am not yet convinced that I see this necessary determination on DARD’s part.”
He continued, “In my opinion there is one glaring issue that DARD does not appear willing to address and that is the threat from wildlife carriers of TB. We heard interesting statistics on Wednesday during the visit on the wildlife carrier issue and in particular badgers. It is clear that DARD need to up their game in terms of the compiling of information on badger numbers as no up to date statistics exist.”
“I have no doubt that the badger population in Northern Ireland has grown massively and this has undoubtedly had a knock on effect on TB incidences. I believe there is now a strong need for a badger cull in a number of TB hotspots in the province, similar to the plans being worked on in England.”
“I feel that a controlled cull is the only realistic way to reduce our high TB infection rates and given the immense cost to the industry here, the minister and her department need to grasp this nettle and push forward and get on top of this growing problem,” Irwin added.
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