TB compensation proposals branded ‘legalised theft’ by outraged farmers

Proposals to cap TB compensation have been branded as ‘legalised theft‘ by Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) deputy president Victor Chestnutt.

Speaking at the third UFU roadshow in Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Chesnutt said: “I make no apology for using that term – if you are taking anything off a farm for less than its monetary value then that is theft.”

Chestnutt’s response followed a passioned outcry from a member of the audience for the union to “say no to any caps on compensation and no to any more regulations”.

Rising TB rates

But the problem of TB is not going away – there are thought to be 11 main strains of the disease circulating around cattle and wildlife in Northern Ireland.

Incidence rates hit their highest level in more than a decade – hitting 9.47% in October; the last month for which figures have been made available.

The 12-month rolling figure for herd incidence measures the proportion of herds tested that reacted with the test.

It’s the highest the measure has reached since January 2004.

The latest figures show the proportion of herds which are officially TB free has also dropped to its lowest level in at more than five years.

‘Unpalatable and unworkable’

Chestnutt said: “The report has recommended a lot of things which are extremely unpalatable – not only unpalatable, but unworkable on farms.

“It did recommend cuts on compensation – which I and our livestock committees have deemed as ‘legalised theft’ – and we will be saying no to that.

“But also another recommendation that has come from the department is that we pay for our test.

We are saying no to that, we are saying no to a lot of things; but, we realise there has to be a new approach – it can’t go on like this for another 50 or 60 years.

“The amount of stress; the amount of heart-ache; the amount of financial loss that farmers have to take – both in the cost of doing a test and the loss of stock – is unacceptable.

“We do realise that we are going to have to take unpalatable decisions – we are going to have to put our hand in our pocket to try to pay for wildlife intervention; because, we fear if we do not pay for this, this will not happen.

“We have to tackle TB in the environment, wherever it is. The time for tackling TB on 50% of the cause – which is the cattle – is long passed and it’s time for a new approach.”