3 August 2001
‘TB blame shifted from badgers’

By Alistair Driver

CONSERVATIONISTS claim that a new government report on tuberculosis in cattle signals a “massive shift” away from blaming badgers for the problem.

The National Federation of Badger Groups (NFBG) says the Independent Scientific Groups report on endorses its own proposals for tackling the disease.

The report says it clear that culling badgers, currently being trialed in 10 hotspot areas, is just one option available to tackle the disease.

It suggests that halting cattle-to-cattle transmission must also be addressed.

The report emphasises the need for better management of cattle health and says restricting cattle movements could also help.

NFBG conservation officer Elaine King said she particularly welcomed a proposal outlined for reducing transmission by annually testing all herds.

“We have advocated all these measures for years,” she said. “There is no doubt that the lessons of foot-and-mouth have helped swing this debate our way.

“It is no longer possible for the farming industry to ignore the central role that it must play in controlling this disease.”

But Dr King refuted suggestions that the badger culling trial, which has been delayed because of foot-and-mouth, will prove a link with bovine TB.

Dr King said the experiment was based on a false assumption that everything other than removing badgers from farmland was constant.

Farm leaders acknowledged there had been a shift in government thinking towards better husbandry and the elimination of cattle-to-cattle transmission.

But National Farmers Union animal health and welfare adviser Peter Rudman said there should be no-let up in efforts to tackle the role of badgers.

“We have always accepted that eradicating bovine TB is a multi-factorial problem which is something all farmers need to address,” he said.

Mr Rudman said he hoped that the government scientists would not shift completely away from looking at the role of badgers in transmitting TB.

And he pointed out that the report did not dismiss the role of wildlife in the bovine TB problem that has hit farmers all over the country.