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9th June 2016

Mixing Up The Medicine – Trail Hunting & Biosecurity

Volunteers who vaccinate badgers against Bovine tuberculosis adhere to a strict biosecurity Code Of Conduct when accessing land or in contact with animals. Are so-called Trail Hunts so vigilant and does their activity compromise farm animal welfare? Here, volunteers on a Dorset farm prepare the medicine on vaccination morning. Volunteers who vaccinate badgers against Bovine tuberculosis adhere to a strict biosecurity Code Of Conduct when accessing land or in contact with animals. Are so-called Trail Hunts so vigilant and does their activity compromise farm animal welfare? Here, volunteers on a Dorset farm prepare the medicine on vaccination morning.

This is a serious question: Does so-called Trail Hunting compromise biosecurity on farms?

According to a 2014 government guidance document enitled ‘Disease prevention for livestock and poultry keepers’, some of the “main” ways in which farm animal and bird diseases are spread (and which in Italics we suggest are pertinent to Trail Hunting) include;

– animals moving between and within farms and, in particular, the introduction of new animals. Imported horses and dogs plus disturbed wildlife all move within and between farms during a days hunting.
– movement of people, especially workers, between and within farms. People follow hunting, sometimes in large numbers, and as they enjoy their days activity they move between and within farms.
– farm visitors – people, pets, equipment and vehicles. People, pets/working animals, equipment and vehicles are exactly what comprises a Hunt in the field.

Biosecurity measures suggested by DEFRA and APH, include;

– where possible, limit and control farm visitors – people and vehicles.
– have pressure washers, brushes, hoses, water and disinfectant available, and make sure visitors use them.
– clean and then disinfect any farm machinery/equipment if you are sharing these with a neighbouring farm.
– keep livestock away from freshly spread slurry.
– include signs directing visitors to the farmhouse/office and urging visitors not to feed animals or get in close contact.
– where possible a hard standing area away from livestock should be provided for visitors’ vehicles.
– consider offering protective clothing and footwear – Wellington boots are recommended because they are easy to clean and disinfect.

This is also a serious question:

Have you ever seen anybody pay heed to biosecurity or disinfect themselves/their tools of the trade when hunting across country from farm to farm?

Of all the farm animal diseases (of which there are many) Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) has occupied an enormous amount of debate, action and resources in recent years and continues to do so.

We know that bTB exists in wildlife populations as well as farm animals. According to DEFRA and APH, “Infected animals spread the disease mainly through coughing and sneezing. Bacteria are released into the air and inhaled by other animals in close contact.” We are told, in the same document, that the disease can also be spread, “through contaminated equipment, animal waste, feed and pasture.”

So-called Trail Hunting involves hordes of people on horseback, in vehicles and on foot with packs of hounds chasing their quarry from farm to farm, getting their sticky hands, feet, wheels, hooves and paws amongst all manner of livestock and into the dirtiest, darkest corners of the countryside.

According to DEFRA and APH, bTB prevention measures include the instruction to “Practice strict biosecurity” and this takes us back to the top of this blog.

So the original question, “Does so-called Trail Hunting compromise biosecurity on farms”, stands. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who can answer it with authority.

If you feel moved to ask DEFRA about any of the above then why not? They offer a range of contact options. You can Tweet them @DefraGovUK.

You could raise the matter with your MP too.

Help to stop the danger of spreading diseases by making where you live a No Hunting zone.

© Joe Hashman

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