The Pedigree Cattle Trust is calling for an independent review of the measures taken to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Northern Ireland.

The request was made at a meeting of farmers, hosted by the organisation in Co. Armagh.

Leading Trust member, Brian Walker, said: “The review must be led by an independent cohort of people who are not veterinary surgeons.

“Up to now, all of the policies implemented in an attempt to eradicate bTB have been led by public sector vets. It is time that we had a fresh approach taken, one which includes the active participation of the private sector.

“Certainly, vets must be included in the envisaged review process, but, they should not be the final decision makers in the process.”

According to members of the Trust, the bTB review could be completed in six months.

Attending the bTB meeting in Armagh, (l-r): Ross Irwin, Eglish; Jonny Buckley MLA and Jordan McLean, Donaghmore

Walker continued: “One of the key points, which this review process must address, is the relevance of the bTB skin test, which is widely used throughout the UK and Ireland at the present time

“It is not accurate enough – other options must be looked at. A significant range of bTB testing procedures are now available – their relevance must be fully assessed.”

The Trust member also confirmed that pedigree cattle breeders in Northern Ireland will not accept any reduction in bTB reactor valuations.


“The current scheme is hardy fit for purpose, given that it does not cover the consequential losses incurred by livestock farmers in the wake of animals being removed from their herds.

“The current Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) bTB compensation review is suggesting that affected farmers should only receive 75% of a reactor’s market value. Such a proposal is not fit for purpose,” he added.

Walker pointed out that three key challenges faced the cattle sector in Northern Ireland at the present time, being climate change, the nitrates issue and bTB.

Where climate change is concerned, he noted the recent decisions taken by the Scottish Executive to step back from a number of the annual targets previously agreed.

“Here in Northern Ireland, DAERA has decided to go down the legislative and enforcement route in order to secure change across a broad spectrum of key policy areas.

“This approach will not work. All it will do is serve to further alienate rural communities. What is required, is a process based on better education and communication across agriculture as a whole.

“If this approach requires DAERA and other bodies interfacing with individual farming families on a regular and ongoing basis, so be it,” Walker explained.