Benn ‘should be congratulated’ for anti-cull stance

DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn should be congratulated for standing up to industry pressure to implement a badger cull to tackle bovine TB, two leading scientists have claimed.

Veterinary professor Paul Torgerson and health sciences professor David Torgerson said a badger cull would make the problem of TB in cattle worse.

Tackling the reservoir of disease through a cull would cause infected survivors to leave the area, spreading the disease to uninfected badgers and cattle, they said.

“Hilary Benn should be congratulated for standing up to pressure from those in the media, agriculture and the veterinary profession who want him to implement a flawed policy,” they wrote in a letter to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But the professors, from Ross University and the University of York, also said the current government programme to tackle bovine tuberculosis was likely to be a waste of money.

“Bovine tuberculosis is no significant threat to human health now that we have universal pasteurisation of milk,” they said.

“Only two cases of human acquisition of bovine TB in Britain have been proven in the last 30 years.

“It is likely, therefore, that the whole programme of bovine tuberculosis control (other than milk pasteurisation) is a waste of money.

“However, some in the veterinary profession do earn substantial amounts of income from its implementation.”

The way forward was to ensure all milk was pasteurised and to wait for the badger vaccine, they added.