Scientific group dismisses TB proposals

THE INDEPENDENT Scientific Group on cattle TB has claimed that the NFU’s proposals for badger culling are based on “speculation and anecdotal comment”.

The proposals were submitted by the union at the end of June following a request by junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw.

Measures suggested in the policy statement included area clearance of badgers in regions known to have diseased populations and the targeting of setts inhabited by infected badgers.

The proposals suggested animals should be despatched by gassing.

But an advice note published by the ISG said that advising the government on the NFU’s paper had proved difficult as “many necessary details on their major proposals were lacking”.

The ISG claimed that to be effective, area clearance would have to involve the elimination or virtual elimination of badgers from large areas and for sustained time periods.

It added historical evidence suggested that localised clearance brought no benefit and could even make the situation worse.

The ISG also said it was not aware of scientific evidence to support the union’s view that gassing badgers was an efficient method of despatch.

Better control of TB could be achieved immediately by tightening cattle disease controls, it insisted.

Jan Rowe, the union’s TB spokesman, said the NFU accepted that cattle-to-cattle controls had a role, but it was sticking with its call for area clearance despite the ISG’s comments.

The concept was about creating no-go zones for badgers in specific areas, he said.

But it did not mean that all badgers would be wiped out between Staffs and the south-west.

“The ISG has acknowledged that area clearance works, but it keeps coming back to the social unacceptability of eliminating badgers from large areas. We’re saying it is socially unacceptable to allow the spread of a disease like TB.”