The BVA president Robin Hargreaves, has called for Government decisions on TB testing and veterinary surveillance to be based on quality of service as well as cost.

Speaking at the BVA London dinner, Mr Hargreaves also spoke about the misinformation and misunderstanding in the debate about bovine TB.

On procurement of TB testing services from official veterinarians, Mr Hargreaves said: “In some large animal and mixed practices, predominantly in rural areas, there has been additional worry about the impact of the Government’s decision to procure bovine TB testing of cattle by tender… We remain unconvinced that tendering is the only available route, but we acknowledge the significant budgetary pressures on Government to reduce the overall cost of TB testing.

“[We want] a system that recognises the vital importance of maintaining our existing local infrastructure of veterinary practices, one that reinforces the value of the trusted relationship between local veterinary surgeons and their farm clients, especially in communicating messages on policy, biosecurity, and other advice, and one that reflects the government’s policy priority of supporting small businesses.

“What we don’t yet know is how those elements will be reflected in the tendering process and we are looking to the Government to do all they can to ensure contracts are awarded on quality, as well as price.”

On bovine TB and wildlife, Mr Hargreaves added: “The IEP [Independent Expert Panel] had to be given time to produce a thorough report, but while we wait it is frustrating to see misinformation filling the void. Some in the media are painting a picture in which policymakers have a straight choice between vaccinating badgers and culling them. That picture is false. And it is damaging.

Badger vaccination clearly has a role to play in the eradication of bovine TB, and we were pleased to see it included in the Government’s TB strategy, but there is no evidence to suggest it is currently a viable alternative to culling in the fight against the disease in cattle in the endemic areas. And it is wrong to suggest any of the measures we need to tackle bovine TB can be successful in isolation.

“We fully recognise this is a highly emotive subject and our own position was not taken lightly. But it is essential the public debate is well informed and based on fact. We will continue to do the best we can to add the veterinary perspective to the conversation.”

For full details in Mr Hargreaves speech, see next week’s Veterinary Times.

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