Truth, lies and bovine TB

A recent Shropshire Star article suggested that a Shropshire farmer, Mervin Mullard of Middle Knuck Farm, near Bishop's Castle, was being forced out of farming by bTB.

The truth of the matter is somewhat different, as Jim Ashley, chairman of the Shropshire Badger Group, discovered when he spoke to Mr Mullard after the article appeared.

Mr Ashley knows Mr Mullard already, as the farmer has participated in a badger vaccination programme carried out by Shropshire Wildlife Trust over the past two years.

The article, in which Mr Mullard spoke to Owen Paterson MP, who is very much in favour of the cull, suggested that Mr Mullard was being forced out because his herd has been so badly hit by bTB. In fact, his herd has been free of bTB since the start of this year, he intends to continue with the vaccination programme and he has simply come to the decision to wind down his herd over the next six or seven years, by which time he will be nearly 75.

As Mr Ashley writes:

"Last November he sent a suckler cow to the abattoir because she had become infertile and the carcass was condemmed because it was heavily infected with TB.  This cow was born on the farm some 10 years ago and in her early years provided three 'inconclusive' TB tests, but then showed clear and has appeared to be clear ever since. Two tests after her disposal, the herd was declared clear and remains that way.   But not a word of this in the reports.
 
Perhaps the persistent infection has been from this cow rather than the badgers?
 
Two things are very clear: that the TB testing system is hopelessly inadequate and incapable of identifying heavily infected animals  AND  that the truth must never be allowed to interfere with a good political story."