DEAR EDITOR: I would like to highlight the scandal of bovine TB.

A young person contracted it some years ago on my farm and had to have a TB lesion removed from his chest at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

He required two antibiotics for six months and being a young person it affected his development.

At the time I was very surprised and decided to do some research and contacted a specialist in the field. He said it was not common but he had come across some other cases.

One in particular he found interesting where a woman living in the countryside, but not on a farm or near livestock, had to have a TB lesion on her hand removed.

The woman was a keen gardener and had several rose beds and was very proud of the wildlife that visited. However, there was evidence of animals using her flower beds as a toilet. The scientist came to the conclusion that the woman had scratched her hand while weeding and caught the bovine TB from badger droppings.


Back then I was able to get a meeting with the top NI government vet who told me that bovine TB was not significant in the human population.

Trying to be well mannered and patient, I did not point out that if it had been growing on the end of his wife’s nose or on his own backside he might have thought differently. He said that TB was spread by farmers and their livestock.

Since then, and over a decade later, the disease has continued to spread and at a time when the public finances are under pressure it is costing over £50m per year, and rising.

Nothing new has been done to reduce the incidence of the disease in over 50 years and it continues to get worse.

The Department is doing the same thing year after year and hoping for a different result, wasting tax payers’ money in the process.


We now have a new Minister for Agriculture. Will he continue with another episode of ‘Yes Minister’ and look for excuses not to change policy like his predecessors? Hopefully not!

To date it has been a game of political and bureaucratic cowardice, with ministers worrying about votes rather than doing the right thing.

I know it is difficult and requires courage, but we have to try and bring the public with us.

Fake news

There are also some well-meaning pressure groups and celebrities, new to the countryside, who will use fake news. We have to follow the science and truth rather than searching for a reason not to do anything.

In England where there was a reduction in the badger population (not an elimination) the incidence of TB has reduced by over 50% and there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in ground nesting birds, young hedgehogs and bumblebees – badgers have a very diverse diet like ourselves.

Looking forward, if we reduce TB, some of the money saved could be ring-fenced for environmental diversity schemes and public good.

However, the longer the current situation continues the more frustrated farmers become. They will possibly take the law into their own hands, running the risk of a severe penalty and becoming victims themselves.

Farmers in the Republic of Ireland and in England have pushed ahead and have demonstrated what needs to be done in NI.

It is time to call out what is happening in NI for what it is.