Cattle farmers keeping quiet to avoid pro-badger attacks
FARMERS in North Devon are becoming so intimidated by the pro-badger lobby they dare no longer voice their anger at the disease to which their cattle are falling prey.
Some who have suffered TB breakdowns in their herds are choosing to remain anonymous for fear of attack by animal activists.
"It's got to the point where we can't put our name to anything," said one cattle farmer who has suffered years of TB in his dairy herd.
Meanwhile fears are growing that TB is spreading to sheep, and that greater numbers are also going down among alpacas, deer and other species.
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And the market for TB restricted cattle at Holsworthy and at Hallworthy, held by Kivells auctioneers, is now being held once a month, twice as often as it had been.
The farmer, who wished to remain anonymous, explained why: "I don't want my barns burned down, or worse.
"This is the sharp end, and we shouldn't have had to put up with this for the last ten years. Common sense should be top of the list.
"The anti-cull people call themselves welfare groups but all they're doing is ensuring that more cows get killed.
"If I wasn't concerned about the welfare of the cows I wouldn't be in business. And forget about the cows, it's doing nothing for the wildlife like badgers, deer and hedgehogs.
Another cattle farmer said: "This shouldn't really be about badgers or about cows, it's about getting rid of the disease, TB."
If opinions and anecdotes are anything to go by the majority of North Devon's stockmen and women believe there has to be a cull of badgers to relieve the spread of TB in all animals.
Farmers have been voicing their thoughts about eradicating TB through a request from the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England for their opinions on the challenge of tackling TB.
David Kivell, partner in Kivells, said the TB restricted sales have moved to a monthly basis because of the demand: "We can't see it stopping. If anything there'll be more.
"The problem is getting worse, with more farms going down at the moment."
Meanwhile farming organisations are putting out advice on other ways to avoid cattle catching the disease.
The TB Farm Advisory Service is offering one-to-one meetings with farmers on TB issues, with three full time advisors covering the South West and going to individual farms.
They also offer informal group meetings on-farm (groups of five to ten people) giving training and advice including disease risk assessments, bio-security measures, trading options and solutions, such as setting up Approved Finishing Units, Exempt Finishing Units and Approved Quarantine Units.
Dates and venues for these meetings will be published shortly, and may include contributions from a local vet.
The service is also planning seminars and workshops for up to 25 farmers wanting information and advice, again with input from a local vet.
Officers also make themselves available presentations to groups and YFCs.