New TB guidance treats pigs like cows – it’s bonkers!

write this month’s column fresh from the NFU Conference, where members elected a first female president in their 110-year history!

While I don’t go in for all that women’s lib stuff, Minette Batters is an excellent choice and I rate her highly. In fact the whole team, with both Guy Smith and Stuart Roberts, will be an asset to agriculture during what will undoubtedly be a challenging couple of years.

While we already work closely with the NFU, we certainly look forward to doing more with the new team. It will be sad not to see ‘Uncle’ Meurig around so much, however, as I’ve always been a huge fan, but I’m sure he’ll crop up somewhere and the time was right for a leadership change.

We also now know who make up the new top team at the NPA. Tallying up the scores to see who was elected was an exciting time… maybe I should get out more?

For me, the hardest part of elections is calling those who didn’t get elected to pass on the bad news. If it were up to me, I’d have them all, as they are very worthy candidates. 

In other news, I attended a roundtable in February to discuss the merits of production system labelling. Hosted by the ‘Labelling Matters’ campaign team, which is funded by a number of welfare organisations, the charming lady running the campaign listened to the concerns shared by industry and retailer representatives, which included not demonising certain systems, the mass of labels the consumer already fails to understand and the practical impossibility of actually doing it.

She also heard research and evidence to back up these concerns, but then effectively said ‘thanks but we’re going to push ahead with the public campaign and petition anyway’.

Of course they are. It was a shame I couldn’t stay for the vegan canapes afterwards.

Meanwhile, Defra have re-issued guidance for Animal and Plant Health Agency field staff on how to deal with bovine TB (bTB) in pigs. It has morphed from the helpful guidance designed to encourage staff to make sensible risk-based decisions about bTB in pigs that we started seven years ago, and has gone so far the other way it makes me fear for anyone placed under restriction.

In the absence of any pig-specific legislation they are now treating pigs like curly tailed cows. Anyone affected will no longer be allowed to bring on new breeding stock, will have to have anything that dies on farm PM’d and, in high-risk TB areas will only be able to send pigs to approved finisher units. It’s bonkers.

But it’s OK, because if you choose to have your pigs tested and they have to be culled, they will now offer compensation! I’m just praying that the badger culling proves effective because I’ve given up with Defra…

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: