Veterinary Surgery (Testing for Tuberculosis in Bovines) Order 2005

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:42 pm on 18 November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Kimball Lord Kimball Conservative 2:42, 18 November 2005

My Lords, I declare an interest. I am an honorary member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons after serving for nine years as a Privy Council Representative at the Royal College as a Member of another place. For 10 years, I was chairman of the University of Cambridge Veterinary School Trust when my noble friend Lord Soulsby was dean of that school, and we raised sufficient money to keep the trust in being. I also happened to live near Melton Mowbray and the Remount Depot, where many of the graduates from Cambridge end up in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. In fact, today, Cambridge University trains so many successful vets that they are lecturing in all the other colleges throughout the United Kingdom.

When you are visiting a farm, the dogs at Melton Mowbray or the horse lines, you need a trained veterinarian who knows the subject in its complete environment. That is very important. It is not just a question of reading the thickness of the skin in one single TB test; one wants to know how the animal is kept and the extent of the farmer's interest in the proper control of disease.

Today, we have a special problem with large animal practices. Vets are called in in the case of cows, bullocks and horses and, sometimes, when the problem is serious, they are called in to look at a very valuable ram. But you cannot afford to call in a vet to look at a ewe, although you might if an illness is affecting the whole flock. Today, we face a real danger from the fact that vets are not getting on to farms. When we had an outbreak of foot and mouth, vets became a precious commodity and we had to call in many from abroad to help us.

We cannot allow large animal practices to become any smaller, and this experiment—I know it is only a very limited experiment—will withdraw vets from farm practices, which is a serious matter. As my noble friend Lord Soulsby said, that would never have happened if the Government had faced up to the fact that we should have had a proper cull of badgers. In the summer, one only has to drive down a country road early in the morning to find a large number of dead badgers. Thank goodness they are dead; we want more of them dead. There is an explosion in the badger population and when they become overpopulated they succumb to disease—TB—which spreads to cattle. This order is an experiment—an unnecessary experiment—and I hope the Government will not go ahead with it. It distances vets from farms and it means that the Government are not facing up to where tuberculosis comes from and are not dealing with the badgers.