Bovine TB eradication programmes in Europe
Dafydd Saunders Jones
Bovine TB (bTB) impacts on farming businesses and communities across Europe. Many papers have been written on the experiences of New Zealand and Australia but there is limited information on how European countries have implemented their bTB Eradication Programmes. Some countries have seen success, some are not so successful. Some have seen a gradual increase in the disease while others focus on protecting their livestock and boundaries. The UK has the highest level of bTB in Europe. Failure to deal with this disease has - and will have - further significant impact on the viability of cattle enterprises and our ability to export.
The main aim of my report was to learn about bTB eradication programmes in a sample of European countries and identify some key aspects that are important to achieve success. I visited Ireland, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, England and Wales and met farmers, policy makers, scientists and veterinarians with direct knowledge and experience of the disease. I have highlighted some key points from each country and discussed what elements are important for an effective eradication programme. My findings should help trigger discussions on delivering an evolving eradication programme.
Some of the main issues identified include the need to develop a delivery model that ensures the involvement of all stakeholders linked with financial and political stability. There are opportunities for a greater use of technology and data sharing to improve analysis, training and education. The formulation of policies and the development of communication strategies need to include and understand the social aspects that are interlinked. This would enable a more effective delivery and communication strategy. Paramount is targeted research designed in collaboration with stakeholders that will produce information that is understood by farmers. The tools currently available to eradicate the disease need to be implemented. Future technological and scientific improvements are important and may help efficiency and cost, but you cannot develop an eradication programme based on what may become available. We need to look at countries like Sweden which understands that consumers want food products from healthy farms, and strives to respond to those consumer needs. Healthy livestock means a more profitable business and, in a changing political world, it is an important marketing tool. We need to demonstrate to consumers worldwide that our livestock are healthy and that we have efficient and effective eradication or prevention programmes in place. We have some of the best stock in the world but if the health status of our stock is below par then our status is severely undermined and we are limiting our potential. We need to take action to control and eradicate diseases such as bovine TB, BVD and Johnes if we are to achieve this goal.