Vets are urged to boycott cattle cull

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The Independent Online
The British Veterinary Association last night urged vets to boycott the disposal of up to 21,000 cattle a week, plunging the government scheme to restore public confidence in beef into deeper chaos.

The cattle cull, which was supposed to have got under way earlier this week, began belatedly yesterday, with the slaughter of 100 cows in Scotland.

But BVA chairman Bob Stevenson opposes the use of local veterinary inspectors (LVIs) in authenticating the date of birth of animals - documentation vital for the running of the scheme. The Intervention Board, overseeing the controversial cull, confirmed that vets were crucial to its success.

In an open letter to the Veterinary Record, published today, Mr Stevenson objects to the fact that veterinary surgeons are expected to approve animals for slaughter without seeing them. ''It is the BVA's belief that this scheme undermines the signature of the veterinarian,'' he writes. ''The BVA would have been happy to accept a scheme whereby LVIs were asked to do a veterinary job, namely, visit the farm, see the animals, check the breed and eartag numbers and correlate this information with the farm records.''

Mr Stevenson says vets could be prosecuted if documentation proves to be incorrect. ''Some farm records are notoriously unreliable. As presented, we question why the LVI should be involved at all. The BVA cannot agree to the scheme as presented and we are advising our members not to take part in it.''

A BVA member said: ''The Government is turning veterinary surgeons into office boys.''

A Ministry of Agriculture spokesman described the development as "not helpful".

As the killing got under way in Scotland, farmers in other areas of the country accused the Government of allowing the cull to become a "chaotic free-for-all". The Government released proposals for a possible reprieve for traditionally-reared grass-fed cattle, to prevent a "slaughter of the innocents".