Thursday, 22 January 2009

Slaughter heartbreak as badgers blamed for spreading TB to pet calf Bee

SCHOOLGIRL Katherine Bigwood has been left distraught after being told a prize-winning calf she kept as a pet has to be destroyed because it has TB.
Katherine, aged 15, of Williton, was given the animal by her beef farmer father, Graham Bigwood.
Mr Bigwood, who rents a smallholding in Sampford Brett, has already lost eight of his 14 cattle to the disease.
Now, the seven-month-old calf, a Hereford-cross-Charolais named Bee, has to be sent to an abattoir for slaughter on Monday.
Katherine (pictured) was attending West Somerset Community College, in Minehead, when Mr Bigwood called to break the news that officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had confirmed Bee was infected with TB.
It was thought the disease was passed on by wildlife, most likely by badgers, which are known to carry it.
Now, Katherine is asking why the Government has refused to order a cull of diseased badgers.
She said: “I do not see what is going to be gained by shooting her when the problem is going to carry on because nobody is doing anything about the badgers.
“It is unfair my cow has to be shot while wild animals which have the disease and are spreading it are left alone.
“I do not know how I am going to feel when she has to go. I cried my eyes out. I keep telling myself that she has to be shot or otherwise she will suffer a slow and painful death, but it does not make it any easier.
“The real point is that cows are going to have to carry on being killed as long as the animals that spread the disease are going to be allowed to live.”
Katherine said she had been planning to enter more shows with Bee after the calf and her mother Honey won the ‘cow and calf’ class at last year’s Dunster Show.
She said: “I was planning to do a lot more showing with her this year because she is such a lovely animal. I was really looking forward to it.”
Mr Bigwood, who is also chairman of Williton Twinning Association, said: “Farming is a way of life. I have to help my animals and they are my way of life.”
National Farmers’ Union press officer Ian Johnson said: “Katherine’s case and many other similar ones, not to mention businesses that have gone to the wall, are all down to Government inertia.
“They are trying to be all things to all people and achieving nothing.
“Nobody complains about other characters from The Wind in the Willows being controlled, such as moles, and deer are routinely managed by being culled.
“The Government just cannot sit on its hands and do nothing.”
A Defra spokesman said bovine TB was recognised as a serious problem, but, having considered all the evidence, it was concluded culling could make the disease worse if it was not sustained over time or delivered effectively.
The spokesman said public opposition and the reluctance of some landowners to co-operate would also make a cull difficult.

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