26 December 1997

Scientists conclusion – more study

DARTMOOR-BASED badger behaviour expert Ruth Murray is angry that Prof Krebs reached the predictable scientists conclusion – that further research was needed.

"What on earth have they (MAFF) been doing for the past 29 years? They have already had ample time for research, including development of a vaccine. The whole report says nothing really. Its just wrapped up so it looks a lot."

The suggestion that farmers should contribute to research costs was scandalous, she added. "Its not for them to pay for this cock-up. Concentrating on badgers was never going to solve it and it never will."

Mrs Murray insisted the alleged badger link was invented by veterinary politicians looking for a scapegoat because they feared changing to the Common Markets TB test would reveal a lot more reactors than the test used in Britain at the time (1969). They were afraid of very large claims for compensation for those extra cows, and it would look like a major TB breakdown in the national herd, she said.

"Farmers are victims of the politicians as much as the badger is." She also suggested that the alleged badger link also promised to produce research and badger control work for ministry vets. "A real veterinary job creation scheme."

High immunity

She insisted that badgers normally have a high degree of immunity to bovine TB and that if MAFF really had found a high incidence of active TB in badgers, then there must be a really big problem in the soil.

"The real breakdown is in the cattle herd. That is where the research should be concentrating.

"They should also be looking thoroughly at other species which might be carrying TB and passing it to cattle. Cats for instance. We had one farm down here which suffered a major TB breakdown. All the badgers proved clean. The farmer insisted the farm cats, and a local population of feral cats, were tested too and they found they had TB."

She agreed with farmers that keeping badgers and cattle apart was impractical.