7 November 2000
Roadkill badgers in TB probe

By Donald MacPhail

CARCASSES of badgers killed on the roads are to be tested in a bid to discover how widespread bovine TB is among the animals.

From Tuesday (07 November) government veterinary staff will report road casualties they come across and arrange for collection and post-mortems.

Areas both within and outside the badger culling trial, which involves killing thousands of badgers to see whether they transmit TB to cattle, will be included.

The survey will be conducted in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.

Badgers found dead on farms in trial areas within these counties will, where possible, also be collected, announced junior farm minister Baroness Hayman.

However, she warned that police would be informed if any evidence of illegal killing was uncovered.

The Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB said data collected and cross-referenced with culling-trial data could indicate of the prevalence of TB in badgers.

National Farmers Union veterinary and public health advisor Peter Rudman welcomed the scheme as a useful addition to the trials.

He said: “Anything that will give more information on the geographic spread of the disease is going to contribute to a clearer overall picture.”

But Dr Elaine King of the National Federation of Badger Groups questioned the value of the data, as it only focused on areas where TB was found.

She claimed money could be better spent on research into animal husbandry, testing cattle, movement restrictions, and developing a vaccine.

“Politics is clouding the issue and real scientific questions are not being addressed or given funding,” said Dr King.

“Theyd rather kill badgers and use them as a scapegoat than implement a raft of measures which would actually work out cheaper.”

A nationwide programme of post-mortems on badger road casualties ended in 1989. Some 50,000 badgers are killed on the roads in Britain each year.

MAFF has asked the general public not to report dead badgers or touch carcasses.