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In England, over the last decade the rising incidence of bovine TB has resulted in recognised economic impacts on the agricultural and ancillary industries. Nowhere has the dramatic increase in bovine TB been more evident than in Southwest England, a region which is characterised by smaller, family-run farms often specialising in relatively extensive bovine livestock systems, whether dairying or beef production. The economic impacts result from the nature of the disease, the government's control measures (restrictions on movement of cattle on and off the farm, repeat testing and compulsory cleaning) and the impact of test 'failures' on the normal marketing of livestock and product. Moreover, this worsening of the disease situation - and hence increasing economic impact - of bovine TB coincides with a period of considerable economic pressures for the agricultural industry. Principal among these are (a) the recent major changes in the CAP, (b) established long-term changes in the food chain (many of which are detrimental to primary producers), (c) new requirements for an increasingly environmentally-friendly farming systems and (d) increased competitive pressures from the enlargement of the EU and greater exposure to global markets. In conjunction with the farming industry, the veterinary profession and other stakeholders, the government is currently developing a new strategy for tackling bovine TB. Bovine TB is acknowledged as one of the most difficult animal health problems facing UK farmers with the incidence now rising at 18 per cent each year. A further factor of particular relevance is the government's recent Animal Health and Welfare Strategy and its implications for affected herds. There is no scientific consensus about why the incidence of bovine TB is rising again (having apparently been brought under reasonable control by the 1970s), although there is increasing scientific evidence of a reservoir of infection in wildlife, particularly in badgers.


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