PRESSURE HAS increased on DEFRA to take tougher action against the spread of bovine TB after research from Ireland found that culling badgers in infected areas virtually eradicated the disease in cattle.

The Telegraph reports that the authors, scientists at University College Dublin, admitted  that culling badgers was not sustainable in the long-term.

But, until a vaccine – either for cattle or badgers – was developed, culling was a feasible method of containment.

The report‘s findings have met with mixed reviews.

Jan Rowe, NFU livestock board, told the paper: “DEFRA has to take very strong notice of the report.”

“The Irish study gives a very strong indication that proactive culling is about the only thing that is going to make an impression on the disease,” he said.

“If you seriously want to remove TB in cattle you have to remove the badgers that are among them.

“You must give farmers licences to cull badgers and this must be co-ordinated in a proper way to make sure it is done effectively,” he told the paper.

But the report‘s admission that culling badgers was “feasible” but not viable in the long-term was highlighted by Dr Elaine King of the National Federation of Badger Groups.

“This trial suggests that badger culling only reduces TB in cattle if every single badger is exterminated,” said Dr King.

“Even if you exclude the moral and political implications of such a strategy, the Irish study does not show whether the effect is large enough to warrant the massive economic cost of the slaughter.”

A spokesman for DEFRA told the paper: “We are asking the independent scientific group on bovine TB to look at it and see how relevant it is to Britain.”