The Cross Compliance penalty regime for bovine TB tests have been branded ‘immoral’ by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, which says the penalties add significantly to the health and safety risks of testing cattle.
From January 1, 2015, tiered cross compliance penalties for late TB testing have seen cattle keepers receive financial penalties in relation to the number of days a TB test is late. However, the failure of the system to take account of test delays caused by health and safety concerns means farmers can be penalised for situations which are outside of their control.
The revelation comes despite repeated warnings by the FUW that such circumstances should be taken into account, and assurances given by Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths in response to correspondence that “…some situations which lead to a TB test becoming overdue are unavoidable and the processes in place acknowledge this fact.”
Dr Hazel Wright, FUW Senior Policy Officer, said: “The application of zero-tolerance financial penalties for tests that have had to be delayed for justifiable health and safety reasons is shamefully inappropriate, and basically means there is a financial penalty for farmers who fail to place themselves and their vets in harm’s way.”
Where a TB test has to be abandoned due to circumstances which could endanger lives – for example, where animals become dangerously agitated – animals will invariably miss the bovine TB testing window due to the need to wait a further 60 days before retesting.
Testing cattle for TB prior to this 60 day window is not permitted under current domestic and EU law as it would render the test invalid.
However, under the regulations all tests which are more than 30 days overdue are subject to a 5 percent penalty, with the failure being categorised as a ‘severe breach’ of Cross Compliance – placing farmers in a ‘Catch 22’ situation where they can either risk health and safety or incur a financial penalty.
Dr Wright added: “Reports of injuries during TB testing are common and there have sadly been a number of fatalities across the UK during TB testing.
“When the current regime was consulted upon in 2014, the FUW made it clear that penalties should not be applied where the failure to test was outside the control of the cattle keeper. Since then, the issue has been raised repeatedly with Welsh Government officials, and we have also written to Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths regarding the matter.
“It seem that our concerns are being ignored and in a way which makes a mockery of the Welsh Government’s commitment to the Wales Farm Safety Partnership.”