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1080 drop to stop bovine TB divides farmers

Published: 6:23PM Sunday March 07, 2010 Source: ONE News

The prospect of a 1080 drop on the West Coast, designed to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis, is dividing the region's farmers.

Some say it's a necessary evil to stop the spread of the disease or TB infection rates could escalate once again, but a small number of others say it's just not necessary.

Helen Lash, who once suffered from bovine TB, says back in the day when the disease was rampant people like her were treated like lepers.

Lash believes that at this stage, it would be foolish to stop using 1080 to reduce possum numbers and bring TB under control. But opposition to a planned aerial drop is growing with Farmers Against Ten Eighty spokeswoman Mary Molloy saying she does not want 1080 drops.

Back in the 1970s, 257 herds on the coast had TB and the number is now down to 42. Debate remains over whether it can go lower or if TB will bounce back.

Out of 81 farms in the drop zone, all but three have given their consent.

"What concerns me is that they'll be targeted and put under great pressure to withdraw their consents," says Lash.

Those against 1080 deny putting anyone under pressure and say the drop isn't needed because farmers are spreading TB by moving infected stock.

"Most of our infections down here have come off the back of a truck," says Molloy.

But those blaming possums argue that if the 1080 drop is stopped, the disease will return. 

"I would think probably in five years we would see a significant turnaround and in 10 quite a horrifying turnaround," says Lash.
But Molloy dismisses such claims, saying she does not believe possum numbers are high enough to cause an issue.

Westland Milk Products spokesman Rod Quin says there is concern TB-infected herds will soon become a problem with overseas markets.

"I think it is real and we see a trend from retailers asking all companies to justify animal welfare standards and the TB issue comes back to an animal welfare issue," says Quin.