27 October 1995

Irish project links badgers & cattle TB

PROVISIONAL results from an Irish research project suggest a strong link between cattle tuberculosis and badgers.

The interim report of the East Offaly badger research project shows an 80% fall in the number of cattle reactors after five years of badger removal from a selected area.

The project, which began in 1989, is designed to observe the effect of eliminating badgers from a 200sq m area on cattle and badger TB levels. Results are compared with a no-removal control zone.

Michael Sheridan, senior vet in the Department of Agricultures TB eradication programme, said TB levels in the treatment area, where badger removals are maintained, are down to very low levels.

One or two outbreaks had been attributed to bought-in cattle and another couple of outbreaks occurred where badgers had moved into the area.

But the recently published report showed interim results only and no conclusions had been drawn by the scientists involved. A full report would be published next spring.

But, Mr Sheridan added, the figures are very strongly suggestive of a badger-bovine link.

The scientists would find a very marked reduction in bovine TB which appeared to be the result of taking out the badgers.

"There has been a very significant drop in TB level in the bovine population and certainly farmers in the area are very convinced of the outcome," he said.