Taxpayers face £100m annual bovine TB bill

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 06, 2015


Taxpayers shell out more than £1,100 compensation for every cow killed because it is infected with bovine tuberculosis.


Strict measures mean cattle are compulsorily slaughtered if found to have TB, and farmers are paid the market rate. Last year, £30.1 million was spent in England as just over 26,600 head of cattle were killed.


In the last five years, more than £150 million has been spent on compensation with the pay-out reaching around £34.1 million in 2012.


In November, figures revealed the first of two controversial badger culls in England cost £3,350 for every badger killed. Badgers are blamed for spreading the disease, which is rife in the South West.


The figures showed that the pilots cost taxpayers £6.3 million in their first year – a fraction of the cost of compensation – during which 1,879 badgers were killed in Gloucestershire and Somerset.


Anti-cull campaigners said the figures did not include the costs of policing, which they said were £3.5 million – bringing the total cost per badger to more than £5,200.


The Government has vowed to continue culling after hailing the Somerset cull this year a success. But critics say the fact Gloucestershire failed its culling target shows they should be halted.


The National Farmers’ Union has given it full-throated support to expanding culling to areas including Devon and Cornwall.


President Meurig Raymond told the Western Morning News: “There’s the human misery that goes on top of the loss of income and heartbreak of losing prized animals. We have got to break this cycle. I fear if we don’t break the cycle, what hope is there for livestock farming in certain parts of the country?”


A Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said: “England has the highest incidence of bovine TB in Europe.


“The cost of the badger culls needs to be seen in the context of the devastating scale of the threat bovine TB poses to our farming industry and food security – £500 million over the last decade.


“Doing nothing is not an option. We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy, including tighter cattle movement controls, badger vaccination and culling.


“Many of the costs associated with the pilot culls last year were one-offs and have not been repeated this year.”


Total annual costs for combating the disease in England is in excess of £100 million in direct costs to the taxpayer.


This does not include the indirect costs and impact


of TB to the wider food and farming industry which run into tens of millions pounds more.


In each of the past few years, many more cattle will have been slaughtered in the two cull areas to combat the disease at an average cost or around £34,000 per outbreak – £20,000 of which falls to the taxpayer and £14,000 to the farmer.