February 16, 2024

 

Northern Ireland vets warn proposed bTB compensation cuts could be unfair

 
 


A body representing Northern Ireland veterinarians has voiced concerns over proposed cuts to compensation rates for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), labelling them as potentially unfair to farmers, BBC News reported.

 

Currently, farmers receive full market value for animals affected by bTB that are removed for slaughter. However, a review has been initiated as part of revenue-raising measures.

 

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs of Northern Ireland (Daera) has been tasked with consulting on potential reductions in compensation amounts for affected animals. This move aims to alleviate the bTB programme costs, which reached a record high of GBP 53 million (US$66.6 million) in 2022/23.

 

Daera's proposal involves cutting compensation rates to 90% in the first year and 75% in the second, sparking concerns from the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA).

 

Representing over 200 vets in Northern Ireland, NIVA believes the proposed cuts do not align with recommendations from the TB Strategic Partnership Group.

 

In its response to the consultation, NIVA highlighted concerns that reduced compensation rates may not directly improve animal health and welfare, nor enhance the bTB programme or relationships between farmers and the government.

 

NIVA said that altering current compensation arrangements could significantly impact the financial stability of many farms and place undue pressure on farmers' mental health.

 

Daera's bTB programme involves annual testing of animals, with compensation payments for removed animals based on their market value, which has risen in recent years alongside disease levels.

 

Sharon Verner, the junior vice president of NIVA, described severe and chronic bTB breakdowns in herds as a significant issue in Northern Ireland. She argued against introducing compensation cuts, particularly given current infection patterns and the lack of action to address the bTB reservoir in wildlife.

 

The proposal for a badger cull was invalidated by the High Court in 2023 due to flaws in the consultation process.

 

The consultation on the proposed compensation changes is set to close on March 8, 2024.

 

-      BBC News

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