February 7, 2006

UK bovine TB tests in cattle face legal challenge

LONDON (Reuters) - The National Farmers Union said on
Tuesday it is to mount a legal challenge to British government
plans to introduce pre-movement testing of cattle later this
month in a bid to tackle bovine tuberculosis.

Britain's farm ministry announced in mid-December it would
introduce compulsory pre-movement testing of some cattle,
effective February 20, and said it would consult on a possible
badger cull to tackle the rapidly spreading disease.

The NFU cited a lack of public consultation, inadequate
veterinary staff to carry out the testing and paperwork issues
among its concerns.

A spokesman for Britain's farm ministry said it would be
issuing a response shortly.

The NFU has argued that both pre-movement testing of cattle
and a badger cull should be enacted at the same time. The cull
is strongly opposed by wildlife groups such as the Badger Trust
and by the animal welfare charity RSPCA.

Badgers are a wildlife host of bovine TB.

"We fully appreciate the demand for pre-movement testing
but it must be carried out in an effective way and be part of a
coordinated approach to tackling the disease. Currently that
isn't the case," said NFU president Tim Bennett.

The NFU said the legal challenge would be made on the
grounds that the farm ministry made an executive decision to
impose pre-movement testing despite several commitments to
consult publicly on the issue.