10 November 1995

Science backs badger TB link

By Liz Mason

SCIENCE does not support the theory that badgers are innocent victims of cattle tuberculosis, junior farm minister Angela Browning has told MPs.

There is a clear scientific consensus that the badger plays an important role in transmitting TB to cattle, said Mrs Browning.

"That is the opinion of scientists in the UK and in the Irish Republic who have studied the issue. In places in England and in Ireland where badger clearance operations were undertaken, there is a marked decrease in TB in cattle," she said.

Tory MP Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset West), who initiated the short House of Commons debate, said it was time to accept that the badger is neither in danger nor endangered.

He said numbers were increasing dramatically and there could be about 750,000 badgers by the year 2000.

"That is a frightening prospect. We all know bovine TB is endemic in badgers and that the spread of the disease is clearly linked to the species, though, as yet, methods of transmission are poorly understood."

He said he had attended two MAFF TB seminars, including one last month. "I left those seminars -and I cannot believe that any other person who attended them did not do likewise – with the certainty that badgers are a cause of bovine TB."

Turning to the NFUs recent report on TB and badgers (News, Oct 27), Sir Jim said the NFU president should circulate the paper to MPs and all candidates in rural seats asking them to support totally its recommendations.

"I hope that the minister, and the NFU, will continue to urge all of us to take whatever action is necessary in the coming months to ensure the present awful trend is reversed," he added. &#42